Today nearly two hundred plucky workers from Hillside Engineering in Dunedin joined by dozens of cold, wet but staunch fellow Dunedin-ites stood in the Octagon in a freezing southerly to tell the National Government that we need a strong rail industry.
Kiwi jobs for kiwi workers was the message, along with Can we build trains in Dunedin? Yes we can is the answer. At a competitive price. And in NZ Inc’s interests.
The case has been made. We have the skills and the capability. If we can’t compete on labour costs with the likes of China, we certainly can on quality and whole of life costs. And ability to deliver on time. The case for kiwi content stacks up.
Across New Zealand, people think it’s important that we build here, rather than go overseas. It’s a no brainer. Especially right now. We need to build confidence in our homegrown industry. We need to retain a manufacturing base. It’s at the heart of Dunedin’s economy, let alone important for the rest of NZ.
Why should the profit go elsewhere? At the very least, the bulk of the actual work should be done here even if we don’t hold the contract.
The EOI contains a limp clause about NZ content. It’s not good enough. There are two particular people standing in the way of NZ’s rail engineering industry having a future. Transport Minister Steven Joyce and Kiwirail CEO Jim Quinn. Neither of them believe in rail’s future. Both are trying to talk it down and to cast those who do support it as emotional rail enthusiasts.
Interesting, given the huge resurgence that rail is having elsewhere in the world. Quinn has a job to do. Joyce has a political imperative. The thing about Joyce is that he’s too cold, too clinical and economic rationalists don’t always resonate.
And he’s made a mistake. He slagged off at Kiwi skills. And he hasn’t even bothered to come and have a look at Hillside.
Leaving aside jokes about animal behaviour, if Steven Joyce can’t make it to Dunedin to have a look at Hillside’s ability to manufacture trains, then he’s chicken. It’s obviously not a priority.
Today Labour had five MPs at the rally. Myself, Pete Hodgson and David Parker from Dunedin. Trevor Mallard from Hutt South (where Kiwirail has its Woburn workshops) and Darren Hughes, Labour’s Transport spokesperson. Phil Goff sent his apologies and his support along with a bunch of other Labour MPs.
Labour thinks that Kiwi content should have preference in the tender for the carriages and engines for Auckland’s rail system.
What does the Government think? Is this important or isn’t it?
So Steven, come to Dunedin. Are you chicken or what?
Watch this clip from Local Channel 9 to see footage from today’s rally