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Dunedin’s Hillside Rail Workshop

Written By: - Date published: 9:00 am, November 4th, 2019 - 15 comments
Categories: China, Economy, public transport, Shane Jones, transport - Tags:

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.

15 comments on “Dunedin’s Hillside Rail Workshop ”

  1. exfitter 1

    I did my Engineering apprenticeship back in '80's.

    A few of my Tradesmen were ex Hillside NZR.

    The skill level, work ethic and attention to detail were dissapointing to put it mildly.

    They were however very quick to down tools and walk off the job at the slightest hint of pressure or admonishment.

    Hopefully attitudes have changed or we'll all be pouring endless $millions into a white-elephant.

    • Pat 1.1

      I did my apprenticeship in the early 80s as well and can recognise a large element of truth in that statement (as pertaining to Addington NZR workshops) but the question to be asked is what is better for society as a whole, an underperforming state employer as opposed to a large segment of society abandoned to poverty and /or the black economy?….the 30 year experiment has I believe answered that

    • McFlock 1.2

      Those were the days rail was an unemployment soak. When SOEs-to-be were adjusting to purely making money, rather than being a public service.

      Compared with the wagons the nats bought, even the 1980s crowd would have made a better product. False savings by a government that seemingly never planned more than two years ahead.

      • greywarshark 1.2.1

        Treating tradespeople as sacred cows, can't be on. The Hillside workers will have to be good tradespeople, and not a closed shop, and not start ripping off the system. When unions get too strong and tight, it's the power tends to corrupt thing.

        like the tradespeople I know and trust and get to work around my house. Keen, capable, and I get charged a reasonable rate so think they are being paid well. They are part of modern society and proud of it. The new railway workers will have to meet a high bar and have their work records discussed with them annually, and not be going on strike for more each year which the spoilt Cooks and Stewards Union on the ferries used to do.

        • McFlock

          Yeah, but the point is that comparing Hillside today with Hillside 30 or 40 years ago (when it worked under different priorities) is simply a way to undermine state resources that refuse to be as underperforming as doctrine of a political hue might indicate.

        • Kevin

          Are you stuck in some sort of 1970's time-warp?

          How does anything about this revitalisation of an important part of NZ's industrial capability have anything even remotely connected to what happened 3-40 years ago?

      • Pat 1.2.2

        We do have to accept however that the up front costs are almost certainly going to increase….but only the up front costs

  2. Kevin 2

    Travelling in my home territory Advantage. Hope you found time for a cheese roll 🙂

    This is great news for NZ and Dunedin. Training apprentices and and providing well paid tradespeople jobs will be good for the local economy.

    In fact, this is how local economies are supposed to work.

  3. marty mars 3

    Good indeed for everyone and especially for dunners – thank you for going down this track.

    • cleangreen 3.1

      yesI agree marty mars.

      good move for sure.

      Now we need to get the Gisborne line re-opened now. The study was completed by BERL and said to report favour to re-open the east coast line completely again after national shut down 70% of the track staff and flooded the rail line with blocked drains.after a rainstorm what did they expect?

      Stupid nats.

  4. J 4

    About bloody time too!

    I was angry when they were closed down.

    I was angry when China got the orders for what Hillside should have. Their BERL tender was slightly more but as it was proved, far more trustworthy and better quality.

    I was really angry when the asbestos was found and spitting angry when Chinese workers were brought in at BELOW minimum wages to fix 'em and the last gummint refused to step in.

    Finally, Jones does something of real value but risks being attacked (verbally?) by some activist group for his loose mouth on India partnership arranged marriage deals through Immigration. And they are Deals. And now India is refusing to parlez on any dairy product being exported to India re this next trade deal. What exactly are we getting from India? If Modi is pushing for a huge intake of Indian immigrants into NZ, I ask again, What are we getting?

    Last time I read the Indian Weekender it was full of Bridges' visit, and while all parties have a chance to have a say in relation (of course) to anything Indian-oriented, its journalists are more anti-Labour (in opposition or in government) and I have to wonder what is really behind this latest nonsense. Has National promised them nirvana?

    I'm getting very tired of other countries deciding what's good for New Zealand and New Zealanders.

  5. Syd Remard 5

    Putting New Zealand first. Thank you Shane Jones and Winston for delivering so much for our railways. Now, about the Twyford slow airport tram….

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