Dunedin must fight to secure the future of KiwiRails’ Hillside Workshops, spokesperson David Kearns told members of the newly formed campaign group ‘Keep Kiwis Working- Build KiwiRail Wagons Here in New Zealand’ which met on Wednesday 25 May.
“If we don’t put up a fight it is unlikely that Hillside will get to build any of the 4000 new wagons needed by KiwiRail. An estimated $100 million plus worth of work.”
Chinese company CNR has recently been given the go ahead for a further 200 wagons at the expense of Hillside. This is on top of the contract for 300 wagons awarded at the beginning of the year.
“Hillside desperately needs this work. Dunedin desperately needs this work”, said Mr Kearns. “It will provide jobs, and training opportunities and have major flow on effects for other local businesses.”
“Hillside Workshops, in association with local engineering firms, have been building rolling stock for over a century. The work can be done to a higher standard at Hillside. It works out cheaper for the New Zealand taxpayers and they are the ones footing the bill. It makes absolutely no sense to have the wagons built overseas.”
The campaign acknowledged the work of the Dunedin Cluster Group consisting of the DCC, Chamber of Commerce, and RMTU reps, local businesses and MPs in advocating for Hillside to KiwiRail management and the government. But it needs to be backed up by a strong show of support by the people of Dunedin to make them sit up and listen.
“Dunedin needs more than a university and hospital. It needs a strong industrial base. Dunedin has long been regarded as a centre of engineering excellence. We have the expertise and infrastructure. We just need the work. KiwiRail has the work and we should get it. After all, along with the rest of New Zealand, we’re paying for it.”
The group resolved to start an immediate campaign of advertisements, posters and letterbox drops to raise public awareness. Further actions are planned to put pressure on the government to intervene and award Hillside the wagons contracts.