Red Alert

Archive for the ‘Rail’ Category

National’s legacy; false economy #2

Posted by on July 22nd, 2012

Since the National Government came to power, 40 locomotives have been purchased by Kiwirail from Chinese company Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Company with engines from MTU.

This follows the 500 Chinese built flat deck wagons which have all had to have brake pad replacements before being commissioned for service.

The Chinese DL locos are the first new diesel-electric locomotives to enter service on the New Zealand railway network in 30 years.

But consider this. Kiwirail measures the reliability of locomotives by measuring the mean distance between failures (in kilometres). A failure is commonly a derailment.

Loco class

FY2011/12 YTD

DC (1951)


DF (1979)


DX (1979)


DX (1972)


EF (1986 Electric)


DL (2011)


The DC class of locomotive was built by General Motors Canada and introduced to New Zealand between 1955 and 1967.

Twenty of the Chinese DL  locomotives were ordered in 2009 and delivered between 2010 and 2011, a further 20 units were ordered in 2011 for delivery in 2012.

Yet the 60 year old locos are four times more reliable than the 2 year old Chinese built locos. What does this tell us about their reliability and value for money? And Kiwirail’s decision-making., which has consistently been backed by the National Government.

*The figures above were dated April 2012. I have submitted an OIA to discover the latest MDBF for all classes of locomotives

National’s legacy; false economy

Posted by on July 21st, 2012

Today at the National Party conference, Steven Joyce spun the line that his Party was all about jobs and the Opposition was about fairytales.

His own intellectual dishonesty is breathtaking. Neither he, nor any member of his government have ever been able to articulate the source of  the Kiwi jobs of the future other than in vague unsubstantiated terms.

His government has instead made countless decisions which have cut skilled Kiwi jobs and resulted in the flight overseas of thousands of New Zealanders who should have been plotting their futures in our country not elsewhere.

Perhaps one of the worst things this government has done to demonstrate its disregard for Kiwi jobs, Kiwi skills and Kiwi industry is to use the purchasing power of government to buy trains built in China which do not meet New Zealand standards.In doing this they are responsible for destroying essential skills and ensured that a whole industry has been cut off at the knees.

A country that deliberately destroys manufacturing capability is not a smart country.

Yesterday, Radio NZ revealed that the brakes on all 500 Chinese-built freight wagons ordered by KiwiRail had to be replaced before they could hit the tracks last year.

Initial tests found that when the wagons were fully loaded to 72 tonnes, the wagons did not stop within the required 650 metres.

The wagons have been in New Zealand for less than a year and have been plagued with problems. Kiwirail pretends it’s no big deal and the government says it’s an operational issue and nothing to do with them. They have backed Kiwirail all the way in its outsourcing decisions. At some point they will become accountable.

As a result, the Hillside Rail workshops in Dunedin, which made the original wagons in the 1950s, has been gutted, skilled workers made redundant and now the workshops are up for sale in a deal which Kiwirail shows little enthusiasm for.

False economy is a kind way of describing the harebrained decision to buy cut price substandard wagons shipped across the world, which require serious faults to be fixed and parts replaced before they can even be put on the tracks. It’s my understanding that some of the wagons are already demonstrating more serious faults.

How long will it be before there is a serious derailment involving these wagons? Who will be held accountable then?

Gordon Campbell wrote sensibly about this issue yesterday.

Steven Joyce, meanwhile, speaks with a forked tongue.


Posted by on June 7th, 2012

Sticking up for your city

Posted by on April 22nd, 2012

It’s one of the main jobs of any member of parliament to stick up for your patch. You are elected by a constituency and they want and expect you to defend them and promote their rights. I don’t think constituents expect to get a better deal than anyone else in the grand scheme of things, but they don’t want to be treated with contempt and disrespect.

I don’t think it’s any surprise to anyone that I’ve come out fighting over the extraordinary, but probably predictable decision by Kiwirail to put the Hillside workshops up for sale. In Saturday’s Otago Daily Times I was quite forthright in expressing my views. I used some rather unladylike language and had to ring my mum the day before to warn her.

I stand by what I said. I think the government (and Kiwirail) have pissed on Dunedin. I think many Dunedin-ites agree. Saturday’s ODT editorial seems to agree too though in more polite terms.

I think that the only way we’re going to sort things is for Dunedin people to take control ourselves. And to have a future Labour government backing rail.

I’ll do my best to help find a buyer for Hillside. I’ll continue to take the fight to parliament and I’ll remain a thorn in the side of this government and the local National List MP Michael Woodhouse who has seriously let down the people of Dunedin in the pursuit of his own career. I’ll advocate for the need for and the importance of this industry to remain in public hands, and indeed to just bloody remain in our country.

When I took this job on I understood that there are times when sticking up for your city is more important than towing toeing a party line that you don’t agree with and which is going to hurt your city. It’s a judgement to be rarely exercised. Sometimes the greater good is more important than a local issue. But every MP should have the right and the responsibility to stand up for their city. This was one of those times. Woodhouse didn’t even think about it.

He blocked a select committee hearing on the petition signed last year by nearly 14,000 people (mostly from Dunedin) calling on the government to save the Hillside and Woburn (Hutt) workshops. He has never been held accountable for refusing to allow the people of Dunedin, the Hillside workers and their union to have a say before a parliamentary committee. He should be.

His government is negligent, disingenuous and downright liars about their responsibilities for Kiwirail and its decision and their knowledge of those decisions. As my colleague David Parker has said; if the KiwiRail board had made the same announcement without telling a Labour government, the board would have been sacked. It is just nonsense and untrue for shareholding Ministers to say they didn’t know Kiwirail’s direction and decisions. And it is very clear that they don’t oppose Kiwirail’s decision to sell Hillside.

There’s more at stake than the nearly 130 jobs, the loss of wages, taxes, skills and the more than 137 year history of a competent and valued rail manufacturing plant to the city of Dunedin. There are more than 70 engineering businesses clustered around Hillside. It’s the backbone of our city. It’s becoming more high tech. It’s a hugely important part of our local and regional economy.

This government doesn’t give a stuff. They allowed (and encouraged) it to be run down and now it’s being sold because Kiwirail says it’s not viable. Kiwirail deliberately made it unviable.

I ask you this. How is that that contracts have been handed to the Chinese to build rail wagons that are dubious in quality, when those same wagons could have been built here? They may have cost a bit more, but the workmanship would have been assured, the maintenance would have been less and have been more easily accomplished, and the people who built the wagons would have been earning decent wages and paying taxes in the New Zealand economy.

Kiwirail, and the government, has blocked any independent scrutiny of the dodgy process in awarding those contracts to China North Rail and the quality issues associated with the Chinese wagons. It’s time for some sunlight on both.

It is not false economy to manufacture in your own country. It’s our productive economy. I’d stand up for manufacturing jobs any day against paying for more pokie machines that create immeasurable social harm and are part of a mates deal to an organisation that will profit, might create a few more service economy jobs, but is unlikely add much more real value to our economy.

And I reckon that’s worth sticking up for.

So what has Michael Woodhouse got to say?

Posted by on March 7th, 2012

Last year nearly 14,000 (mostly Dunedin) people signed a petition to parliament. It demanded the Government take immediate action to ensure KiwiRail did not reduce its workforce at the Hillside and Woburn rail engineering workshops and called for the state-owned enterprise to commit to building rolling stock instead of outsourcing contracts to China.

The petition was put before the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee.

A report was called for from Kiwirail. But no report was ever sought from those who brought the petition to parliament, despite their repeated pleas.

Over a number of months,Labour members of the committee pressed for the petitioners representatives to have a say before the committee, but to no avail. The RMTU union representing the Hillside workers wrote to the committee. They were ignored.

I asked questions of the chair of the committee in the House as to whether the petitioner would have the chance to appear and put their case, but received evasive answers.

The final report of the committee was tabled yesterday in parliament. It contained a minority report from Labour strongly protesting at the refusal of the committee to allow the workers and those opposed to giving Kiwi jobs and contracts to the Chinese to have a say.

Dunedin-based List MP Michael Woodhouse sat on that committee until parliament dissolved late last year. He sought the cloak of committee confidentiality to protect him from commenting on his views.

I think it’s time to ask him whether he supported the right of the Hillside workers, their union and all of those who signd that petition to put their case to a parliamentary select committee.

When you sign a petition you should have that expectation. Especially if there has been considerable public interest in the issue. Which there has been.

The ODT story today sums it up. It is an erosion of democracy and an utter disgrace and Michael Woodhouse should front up and tell the nearly 14,000 people why he blocked their right to have a say.

Auckland Rail Link Poster

Posted by on November 1st, 2011

Auckland Rail Link

Unfortunately we have run out of these great posters already. Considering a reprint but in the interim you can go to here to download or even donate to help print some more.

Labour with Auckland will deliver City Rail Link

Posted by on October 30th, 2011


When National set up the Auckland super city they loved to say they were doing it so Auckland could speak with one voice. Well Aucklanders have spoken. They want a world class transport system, starting with the City Rail Link. But National is not listening.

Labour is. At a rally today at Beresford Square, just off Karangahape Rd and site of a future underground rail station, Phil Goff announced Labour in Government will contribute one-half of the cost of the City Rail Link ($1.2 bn). The other half will be the responsibility of Auckland Council.

The Rail Link is the centrepiece of the Auckland Council’s draft plan. It will double the capacity of the city’s rail network by making Britomart a through-station, and adding underground stations at Aotea (Wellesley & Albert), K Rd, and Newton. And as the Council’s internationally peer-reviewed study showed, it will transform the city centre.

To pay for it we will cancel Steven Joyce’s pet project, the Puhoi-Wellsford holiday highway, freeing up $1.69 billion, and quickly implement the $320m Operation Lifesaver plan to fix the highway’s crash black spots and bottlenecks.

As Phil Goff said at the rally to announce the pledge, the city rail link is the next step in building a modern Auckland public transport system. Without it, Auckland will never meet its ambition of being the world’s most liveable city. Aucklanders know we simply cannot continue building more and more motorways.

Aucklanders now have a clear choice: a vote for Labour is a vote for the City Rail Link, and a partnership between central government and the Auckland Council to deliver the world’s most liveable city. A vote for National is a vote for motorways and sprawl, and a Government doing its best to sabotage Auckland’s desire for a world class transport system.

More detail on the policy here.

TVC to get rail link vote Labour

Posted by on October 30th, 2011

Support Labour’s campaign here.

First world event, third world rail

Posted by on September 12th, 2011

I just hope that Saturday night’s transport debacle stimulates some real thinking about Auckland’s transport. The fingerpointing is out: bigger crowds than expected, alcohol, idiots pushing the emergency stop button, though that happened at the U2 concernt and should have been factored in.

But a world class event being held with a third world train system lies at the heart of the problem. When can Aucklanders finally see a world class transport system like other cities of our size? Not with the rear-visionary Steven Joyce in charge.

Other than adding a few more electric trains to the current order, there have been no new rail initiatives announced by this government – except for pouring a bucket of cold water on the Coucil’s inner city link. Without it we can’t expand the system including running trains to the airport – something that Aucklanders see as a top priority and a symbol of us joining other smart cities – because the network will not run frequently enough without a link.

So hopefully Saturday’s failings – in the midst of a great, great opening – will get Joyce out of his yesterday’s thinking and support the Council rather than white-anting its plans.

Michael Woodhouse promised Dunedin that he would support the retention of the railway workshops

Posted by on September 8th, 2011

Woodhouse talks big in Dunedin but it now appears that he voted to refuse to hear people in support of a petition that 14,000 locals had signed.

If it is true it is a disgrace. He is a candidate there and I am sure the ODT will want to know why he leaves his principles in Dunedin when he comes to Wellington.

Smart Transport- Day Two

Posted by on August 20th, 2011

Posting from day two of the Labour/ Green co-hosted Smart Transport event in Wellington. Focus today is on groups working regionally or nationally on specific campaign issues.

Couple of stand out issues. Almost everyone has noted the difficulty they have had engaging with Steven Joyce on issues. Anyone who has observed his response to any suggestion of alternatives to roading projects will not be surprised by that. But secondly, so much of what is being discussed here is about providing people with genuine choice when the government is instead focused on entrenching the use of cars, and ignoring that it is becoming less and less affordable (not to mention the environmental, urban design, and quality of life issues.) Case in point- the CBD rail link!

And a final word to one group in particular- Rob George from the campaign for better transport in Hamilton is who driving a huge campaign for Waikato trains. Hard slog, but you wouldn’t find a more passionate campaigner. Now he just needs some political will behind him…..

Woburn. Questions

Posted by on August 19th, 2011

Parliament photo 2

This week Trevor Mallard and I went to visit the Woburn rail workshops in Lower Hutt.

This was after the news that there will NOT be redundancies at Woburn, despite Kiwirail announcing in June that around 20 jobs would go from the Hutt workshops. Around 10 jobs are still expected to be lost from the design team.

Meanwhile 44 jobs have gone from the Hillside Workshops in Dunedin. Skilled jobs. Jobs that shouldn’t have been cut, but have, because the government prefers to spend taxpayers money overseas purchasing rolling stock, than use Kiwi skills to build them here.

It’s good news about Woburn.

But I came away with a few unanswered questions. How come Kiwirail announced impending redundancies and then changed its mind? Because there’s too much work at Woburn and they can’t afford to lose any staff. Why is there so much work?

That’s a good question. Especially since there’s supposedly a bunch of new Chinese locos being commissioned.

Why is it taking so long to commission the new DL Chinese locos? That’s another good question. I’ve got a few more.

I’ll be asking Kiwirail for the answers.

The fight to keep Kiwi rail workshops alive

Posted by on August 9th, 2011

Hillside petition 9

Hillside petition 5

Today nearly 14,000 signatures were presented to me at parliament  in a petition calling on the government to retain the Hillside and Woburn rail Workshops.

They represent more than a quarter of Dunedin’s households. The petition was put together in a pretty short time frame. The loss of jobs at Hillside and Woburn cuts deep into our Kiwi ethos. The rail workshops are an important manufacturing base for our country.

This government doesn’t care about that and would rather spend taxpayers money overseas purchasing rolling stock, than use Kiwi skills to build them here.

This government will not do an analysis of the economic benefits of spending our money inside our economy, because they know they’ll be proven wrong. So they keep the real figures secret and make them up.

I challenge Steven Joyce to release the bid costings on the rail wagons contract bids. Was Kiwirail 3rd our of 9 bids? If so what was the cost differential and how was it measured.  And why can they not factor in the economic benefits to our economy.

Our trading partners do.

Now if the time to be investing in our economy. In our skills. Losing this industry is a tragedy for our country.

Labour will fight. And our policy will use major government contracts to back New Zealand firms instead of exporting jobs offshore.

Here’s what the union representing these workers said today.

13,854 Kiwis want to save Hillside and Hutt rail workshops

Lower Hutt rail workers whose jobs are at risk say the government needs to listen to the 12,000 people have signed a petition calling for trains to be made at home.

The workers’ petition was presented to Dunedin South MP Clare Curran at Parliament a short time ago by workers from Hillside and Hutt rail Workshops. Clare Curran was flanked at Parliament by Green Party Transport Spokesperson Gareth Hughes

“Up to 30 positions at Lower Hutt’s workshop are now at risk.  This follows the redundancies of 44 Dunedin workers last month, both a result of KiwiRail purchasing rail rolling stock and electric units overseas” said Wayne Butson.

“This was despite a comprehensive BERL report for Chambers of Commerce, unions and local government, proving the case for a local build,” he said.

“This followed 40 Diesel Locomotives for the North Island being ordered and built in China, and making matters worse, the job for 600 new container flat top wagons also went to an overseas firm.”


Kiwi jobs. Kiwi skills. Too important to sell overseas

Posted by on July 9th, 2011




Some photos from today’s rally for Hillside jobs in Dunedin. (Not quite sure what I was laughing about, or what on earth Pete is doing in the second pic).

More than a thousand people turned out on a bitterly cold Saturday to voice their disgust at the government and Kiwirail’s actions and attitudes in procuring lower quality, cheaper rolling stock from overseas, rather than having it made at home. Keeping skilled workers employed, and an important manufacturing industry sustainable.

The city is united on this issue. The Mayor, the Chamber of Commerce chair, three MPs, the union, Greenpeace and a Green candidate spoke.

My message was essentially that we have to fight for our city. For Dunedin’s future. Because this government won’t. We need these jobs, we needs these skills, we need this industry and it’s economic good sense. I also read out a strong message from Phil Goff.

The government and Kiwirail are telling lies about the cost of Kiwi trains. It’s time they were unmasked.

Our country is not a corporation. And this government can’t decide that parts of our country aren’t worth bothering about because our population base is lower than other parts, and because it’s a Labour town. Dunedin will fight back.

the leader of the national party sends even more kiwi jobs to China

Posted by on June 24th, 2011

Very interesting that the leader of the national party and Steven Joyce have left it to a Chinese website to announce that they have on our behalf purchased another 20 locomotives that should have been built at Hillside and Woburn. No tender. And the first 20 over a year late from the same Chinese source.

Maybe it was because Kiwirail were at the same time firing staff in Dunedin and the Hutt Valley.

Because it is Kiwirail not Chinarail it is time the economic benefits of these purchases (jobs created, skills developed, tax paid, benefits avoided) rather than just the accounting costs are taken into account.

KIWIRAIL Purchase Additional 20 sets of “MADE IN CHINA CNR” Diesel-electric Locomotives
On June 2, CNR Import & Export Corp. Ltd of CHINA CNR Corp. Ltd. Singed another contract for 20 diesel-electric locomotives with KIWIRAIL New Zealand. The partner PPD company in New Zealand of CNR Import & Export Corp. Ltd has been strongly supporting this contract. This is KIWIRAIL to the CNR purchase after first 20 locomotives in 2009.

What a week

Posted by on June 24th, 2011

It’s been a full-on week.  So much happening and so many issues : Ministers in Select Committees, long debates in the House on the Telco Bill, announcements in Christchurch, the Te Tai Tokerau by-election and of course dear Alasdair. Here’s a few extra snippets from question time this week that you may not have picked up.

John Key ruled out implementing the Queensland regulatory standards for mine safety as an interim measure despite mouthing off to an Australian newspaper about Pike River and  family members of Pike River miners calling for increased mine inspection.

Paula Bennett repeated that she thinks any job is a good job, citing the example of ayoung woman, who at 52 years of age was proud to be a checkout chick”, while at the same time revealing she’s up to her neck in the government’s revisiting of youth rates.

Annette King asked the PM why he was prepared to wine, dine, chauffeur, change the law and suck up to Warner Bros to save jobs in the movie industry and now the gambling industry, but but has turned his back on hard-working railway workers who can build wagons and carriages in New Zealand and keep their jobs?  Guess what, no answer.

Kate Wilkinson told Jacinda Ardern that the government has a cogent plan, which when probed, said it was basically about building a stronger economy.  Doh.

Nick Smith told us that training workplace health and safety representatives was a “touchy feely notion”, despite his government expressing concerns about NZ’s high workplace deaths and injuries and saying employee participation in health and safety is critical.

Kate Wilkinson said she was aware that for “those people on the minimum wage we are aware budgeting is tight”, but ruled out increasing the minimum wage calling $15 an hour  “a high minimum wage”.

David Cunliffe asked if the PM thought the public would be pleased to learn that without any mandate, his government has budgeted $6 million to spend before the election on preparing to sell assets.

Oh and I was at a dinner on Monday night where a certain Alasdair Thompson had been invited.  But that’s another story.

Who is the real taniwha here?

Posted by on June 9th, 2011

The great taniwha stops transport project story has popped up again, this time after a member of the Auckland Council’s Maori statutory board asked whether the Council had considered the impact of the rail tunnel on the taniwha Horotiu who lived in an ancient creek running past the Town Hall and down Queen St.

The modern taniwha has carved out an interesting role where modern infrastructure projects meet politics.  The Herald reports taniwha sparked public debate in 2002 when the presence of a one-eyed taniwha called Karu Tahi stopped work on the Waikato Expressway. Taniwha inspired an on-site protest during construction of the Ngawha Prison, near Kaikohe.

The taniwha story provokes very different responses on each side of the Maori-Pakeha divide. For Maori I suspect it is a part of the ongoing struggle to get authorities to engage and listen to iwi and their concerns. For most Pakeha the growing influence of taniwha is probably seen as political correctness gone mad.

But neither of those should distract from the main game here. The real threat to Auckland’s long-awaited rail link is not the Queen St taniwha. It is a roads-mad Transport Minister determined to sink the plan for a modern rapid transit system in our biggest city.

If there is a taniwha threatening the rail link its name is Steven Joyce.

Wellington rail upgrade

Posted by on March 10th, 2011

Today the government and the Greater Wellington Regional Council have announced another major upgrade of the commuter rail network, completing a project started under the last Labour government to deliver Wellingtonians the quality, reliable public transport options that they deserve.

The latest package includes $88 million from government to complete the upgrade of the signalling and tracks, and a commitment by the Greater Wellington Regional Council to takeover and refurbish the 30 year old Ganz Mavag trains at a cost of $80 million. GW will then own all the trains, maintain all of the stations, and pay a fee for access to the tracks, offset by a central government subsidy.

For the past couple of years, residents of the Hutt Valley, Johnsonville, Porirua, and the Kapiti Coast have put up with frustrating delays, breakdowns and cancellations as the upgrading work has been going on. Some of it was avoidable, but some of it just reflects the fact that under privatisation our rail services were badly neglected and there is a huge backlog of upgrading and maintenance work to get through, a task made all the more difficult by the need to keep the trains running while it happens.

I’m pleased that the rail upgrade is going to be completed, but I’ll be very concerned if GW increases fares in order to pay for their share. Wellington rail commuters have already been hit with increased fares and the improved service they have been promised hasn’t yet eventuated. I don’t think commuters should be asked to stomach another fare increase until the problems are fixed and the service is more reliable.

Key wants to turn Northland rail into trail

Posted by on December 20th, 2010

Later this week Kiwirail are likely to begin consultation on the closure of rail in the far north on behalf of the government.

I’ve got an opinion on this question which is not that popular with friends on both the right and left.

I think the rail link to Marsden Point should be completed. It is probably the key to a decent integrated transport system for New Zealand.

Marsden Point is the best port in the country. Deep water, natural and because it is so far north it saves sailing time for the massive ships that will be servicing NZ in the future.

The road industry hate the idea. Port of Auckland’s owner not impressed. Auckland colleagues don’t agree.

But worth talking about before the options are narrowed.

Why don’t Kiwi jobs matter to this govt?

Posted by on December 15th, 2010

Under a National Government and with the current Kiwirail mindset it appears that the rail engineering business in NZ has a doubtful future.

Yesterday’s announcement by Kiwirail to choose China CNR Corporation (CNR) as its preferred tenderer to supply 300 wagons to bolster its ageing fleet is a huge and possibly terminal slap in the face for the Hillside Workshops in Dunedin and Woburn Workshops in Lower Hutt.

NZ could never have competed with China on labour costs. CNR may be a cheap and efficient supplier, but that doesn’t take into account the wider economic benefits and spin-offs for New Zealand of using KiwiRail’s own staff at the Hillside Workshops in Dunedin (and in Woburn) to do the work.

Does this government intend to invest in NZ industry and Kiwi jobs? If so, tell me how, where and when?