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Choices, choices: Hillside & National’s priorities

Written By: - Date published: 8:50 pm, April 19th, 2012 - 25 comments
Categories: Economy, infrastructure, jobs, privatisation - Tags: ,

When it comes to doing dirty deals with a casino, selling our law so that it gets a convention centre and more profits from gambling addicts, National’s willing to die in a ditch. But when there was an opportunity to save and expand our high-tech, high-skill manufacturing at Hillside simply by requiring government bodies to consider the costs and benefits of their actions on the whole country, not their narrow corporate interests, National did nothing.

Now, Hillside is going to be privatised, and likely shrunk further or even closed, because National let the major rolling stock contracts go overseas. They did nothing while a state-owned company made New Zealand poorer and increased our current account deficit because it was good for Kiwirail’s individual bottom line.

Two things I’m looking really forward to from the Labour-Green government in 2014/15 – the reversal of whatever legislative favours National is about to give SkyCity (fuck the shareholders, give the leeches notice now) and a modern procurement policy that requires government bodies to account for the whole of economy/society and whole of environment impacts of their purchasing decisions. (not to mention an awards system, capital gains tax, extended paid parental leave, proper apprenticeship support, modern monetary policy, a full ETS/carbon tax, more modern state houses, pollution charging, Kiwis crewing Kiwi fishing vessels, no more asset sales, money to needed, sustainable transport rather than the RoNS ….)


25 comments on “Choices, choices: Hillside & National’s priorities”

  1. Hilary 1

    Rumours around Wellington are that the new overseas built trains were a bit shoddy on arrival and had to be fixed up by locals for local conditions to make them fit for purpose. So getting them built overseas was false economy.

    • Shane Gallagher 1.1

      My friends at Hillside have confirmed that – there were all sorts of problems with the braking system and the wheels and the welding – technical stuff I didn’t quite get the gist of but the kind of mistakes that the trains built at Hillside and Wellington don’t have.

      It is not just Hillside – there are a lot of smaller businesses that rely on sub-contracts to survive. Dunedin could lose a huge amount of its engineering industry because of this. South Dunedin is already deprived enough as it is.

      • NickS 1.1.1


        The problem with giving the tender to the cheapest bider is that you can end up with a shoddy result, which in the long term will cost you more than one of the more expensive options. Especially if the contract doesn’t make the expectations crystal clear, or the company issuing the tender doesn’t care about the long term costs.

    • Roy 1.2

      Other things I’ve heard: The Matangi units actually seat fewer people than the old units, and they are very noisy, so that people living near the lines are complaining.

  2. DH 2

    It’s a very good argument James. Why did the Nats get so keen on a convention centre when they cast Hillside adrift costing loads of jobs and millions of dollars. Key could just as easily have negotiated the Kiwirail deals for locomotives & rolling stock and & he wouldn’t even have had to change any laws to do it. They’ve had numerous other chances to create jobs and they refused, their talk about the Convention Centre being about jobs & tourist dollars is just a big fat lie.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      Why did the Nats get so keen on a convention centre when they cast Hillside adrift costing loads of jobs and millions of dollars.

      Oh, that’s easy. Gambling is a cheap and easy way for the capitalists to fleece the people – all they have to do is hire someone on minimum wage to plug in the machines. Actually producing stuff is expensive, risky and if it’s government owned the capitalists don’t get to keep the profits.

  3. millsy 3

    Putting aside for one moment the question of sourcing rolling stock, it has to be said that every railway operator, private or public has a certain amount of in-house heavy engineering expertise. If KiwiRail sells off the Hillside Workshops, it loses that expertise, and has to stand in line to expensively purchase them from an outside provider.

    KR is making a huge mistake here.

    • Lanthanide 3.1

      “and has to stand in line to expensively purchase them from an outside provider.”

      Who can easily charge 10% more as a baseline because they know the customer’s options are limited.

  4. Nick 4

    Good point, for some reason I hadn’t connected SkyCity and Hillside despite hearing about both on the news today. Its not that difficult to consider wider economic benefits than a simple cost / benefit analysis but you need to let go of pet ideologies, something National and probably Key in particular find it hard to do because they have so much wealth invested in maintaining their world view.

    I really want to see Kiwis crewing Kiwi fishing vessels – the current situation is so many levels of wrong its disgusting, is this on any party’s radar in terms of specific policy?

    Research Tax credits, what’s the current state of that? A high value, high wage economy for a small country like ours is going to come from innovation an being world leaders in things like green technology or other intenationally desirable, future proof and high-tech industries. Being Australia’s sweatshop is easier for the government to manage (keep running the economy into the ground and we’ll become more and more attractive to outsource to) but its hardly a plan to be proud of is it?

  5. bad12 5

    We can definitely see the need for research and development in Green technology,half the homes in New Zealand,(probably more than), could with some ‘smart thinking’ be pumping electricity INTO the national grid on a daily basis as well as providing the in home hot water for most of us by building a standardized solar panel system and the industry to manufacture such…

  6. Apart from the usual political negative reactions the Hillside sale announcement has been looked at as a positive opportunity by most in Dunedin, including the union.

    RMTU general secretary Wayne Butson:

    If we can get someone who can bring in existing contracts, a workload, innovation, a bit of money and some determination, I have no doubt whatsoever that Hillside will survive.

    Past Labour and current National governments have tended to let the regions diminish. So it’s up to regions like Dunedin to turn national neglect into local opportunity.

    Could a move to private ownership make a Hillside sale an opportunity?

    • RedLogix 6.1

      If KiwiRail won’t give them business then they have to find a completely new field to compete in. Of course that’s a huge ask but in the meantime no-one really wants to talk their chances down.

      But the truth is … this govt has scrapped them… choosing to give NZ taxpayer money to Chinese companies than New Zealand ones.

      • vto 6.1.1

        “choosing to give NZ taxpayer money to Chinese companies than New Zealand ones.”

        Note quite mr logix,.. choosing to pay sweatshop wages to Chinese workers than decent wages to New Zealanders.

        That is the reality.

    • Galeandra 6.2

      ‘survive’ = ‘opportunity’?

      Real little booster you are, PG. Still, soooo many votes…………

  7. Janice 7

    Has Hillside been deliberately run down so it can be sold to a selected overseas buyer (we are being softened up for this already) who has had their eye on it for a while and wants to buy it cheaply and exploit the workforce?

    • This looks like a repat of Curran’s conspiracy theory.

      Perhaps rail is struggling to make money in New Zealand and efficiencies have to be made to try and help it survive. Most of Dunedin looks at what can be done to rescue the workshops, while Clare thinks a protest campaign might work. Where is she going to protest – overseas?

    • Te Reo Putake 7.2

      Well, it’d make a lousy casino, so possibly not! But there is no doubt that there is no one in NZ who would need a facility like Hillside, so an overseas buyer would have to be found.
      The cherry on the top is limited ongoing work with Kiwirail, so it would probably need to be a player in the heavy engineering market with expertise in delivery and repair of rail stock. There are plenty of those about, but whether NZ would be an attractive place for them to move to is the big question, because the rail work needs to be backed up with other engineering work. Finding the latter is the tricky part of the equation.

  8. RedLogix 8

    Or KiwiRail could have simply given it’s own business to it’s own workshops. How hard was that PG?

  9. Tiger Mountain 9

    Another “we had to destroy the village in order to save it” scenario. Work has dropped off apparently for Hillside, well thats what happens when you bloody contract out a large order (for rolling stock) that this facility was set up to produce.

    • marsman 9.1

      Jim Quinn, Kiwirail CEO was appointed in March 2009 by Shonkey’s lot no doubt to sneakily re-privatise Kiwirail and or sabotage it ( Gisborne- Napier line ).

    • David H 10.1

      So apart from Cunliffe who has said anything about this???? Ahhh no one as usual. Nice to see the Labour party has now positioned it’s self as the say nothing, do nothing Party, since Shearer came to power. So he has said he was not going to play Gotcha Politics. It would be nice if he could play anything politics. But no it’s loser politics as usual. So the way I see it, is at the Next election it will be The Greens and NZF to run the opposition, and Labour will be the 5 seat fill in.

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