I’d like to belatedly congratulate Wayne Butson and all those who stood with him like John Kerr to keep Dunedin’s Hillside rail workshop alive. Their efforts after many years of lobbying and arguing have been rewarded.
Most work at Hillside ended in 2012, after KiwiRail awarded an estimated $29 million manufacturing contract to a Chinese company, in what was seen at the time as a terminal blow to the workshops.
Since then some rail work has been carried out on behalf of Fu Wah interests refurbishing luxury carriages for a new tourist service (not even sure if that service e will see the light of day). Kiwirail workers were not use for this work, so they mostly left Dunedin or retired.
So now, when asked if Dunedin had the skills available to fill the 40 extra jobs expected to be required in the next three years, and about 25 more in the ensuing years (taking the site up to 100), Rail & Maritime Transport Union (RMTU) South Island organiser John Kerr said there were challenges.
Skilled tradesmen are difficult to get hold of, there’s no question about that.”
Skilled tradespeople in rail engineering. Well, who’da thought we would have needed them.
On October 30th Minister Shane Jones announced $19.97 million will go into a big upgrade of the facility.
It’s great to see a Kiwirail Chief Executive work so well with their Minister. I have seen Greg Miller speak at conferences several times now, and he is impressive. He and Jones put on a good show, and they bring big investment with them. One smart implied strategy he and the Minister are doing is essentially using rail investment via Kiwirail to regulate or at least manhandle our sea ports (unlike airports, seaports are not price regulated or have much policy direction at all). Someone had to.
Anyway, at Hillside, KiwiRail will use the funding to upgrade the two main rail workshops at the site, including electrical and fire protection systems; create new facilities so that locomotives and wagons can be taken apart for heavy maintenance and upgrade; overhaul the aging heavy-lift crane and traverser; improve the site’s rail yard and roading; and replace the existing office block.
This is going to mean that KiwiRail will maintain a lot more locomotives and wagons, and do heavy maintenance and upgrades.
Greg Miller noted that “Improvements on the site will allow KiwiRail to maintain a lot more locomotives and wagons and undertake a range of new work, such as heavy maintenance and upgrades,” Mr Miller says.
“It will make Hillside a crucial part of KiwiRail’s growing South Island freight and tourism operations, and create new skilled jobs.
I was driving from Mossburn to Gore two days ago, following essentially an old rail line that was torn up many decades ago. You can still see rail sidings, and piece of line and old trains preserved by the locals into parks in places like Lumsden and Mandeville.
Rail has declined a long, long way from where it was in New Zealand and will never fully have that place again, but thanks to the people that fight for it and its workers like Wayne Butson, there’s life in it under this government.
You did them proud Wayne.