Yesterday on Agenda, SOE Minister Trevor Mallard said that the Government was undertaking an exploratory study to see whether the factory that currently repairs trains could also be used to assemble trains. If its economical, specialised parts would still be imported but a major manufacturing job would take place in New Zealand, building up New Zealand’s manufacturing skill base, saving money, and reducing the current account deficit.
This used to happen back before privatisation of rail. At the time the locomotive assembly industry was protected from foreign competition (local assembly was also required in a range of other industries). That was economically inefficient and meant, at the end of the day, Kiwis ended up paying more for manufactured goods.
There is no suggestion of returning to such a system. The Government is simply researching whether local assembly would be competitive with imports. It is fantastic to see them thinking in such an innovative manner to find ways of boosting the local economy and improving a vital, energy efficient transport system.
So, it is terribly disappointing that National has come out against the idea even before the report is complete. National’s Gerry Brownlee simply states that it would be impossible for Kiwis to assemble trains at lower cost that complete imports without protectionism. Automatically, National believes we can not do as well as other countries; that New Zealand can’t compete.
Guess that ‘ambitious for New Zealand’ thing is just so much empty spin.