Cunliffe attacks Dunedin 'vendetta'

David Cunliffe.
David Cunliffe.
The Government had a vendetta against Dunedin, Labour Party leader David Cunliffe said in an interview in the city yesterday.

He could find no other reason for the ''callous attacks'' on Dunedin institutions such as the possible downgrading of AgResearch's Invermay facility and the closure of the former KiwiRail Hillside Workshops.

''Dunedin is facing severe cutbacks by the current Government. Labour has a huge focus on regional development and Dunedin is a high priority for us,'' he said.

Immigration Minister and Dunedin-based list MP Michael Woodhouse said Mr Cunliffe's comments were empty rhetoric and he should explain to Dunedin and other taxpayers what he would have done differently regarding Hillside and Invermay.

''I remain concerned about the possible effect of the Invermay scientists moving out of Dunedin and am working hard for the best outcome we can achieve for us and the private sector. Mr Cunliffe needs to tell us what he would do differently.''

Mr Woodhouse described as ''nonsense'' the claim the Government had a vendetta against Dunedin. The Government had supported investment into an ''excellent'' transport programme, Forsyth Barr Stadium, increased funding for the University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic - both of which were doing well - and funded 160 extra doctor and nurse positions at Dunedin Hospital.

Keeping Hillside open would have required a $150 million subsidy from taxpayers, he said.

Mr Cunliffe led the Labour shadow cabinet to Dunedin yesterday and launched a health policy aimed at the area covered by the Southern District Health Board.

The southern board, along with Waikato, would receive an urgent roll-out of a bowel cancer-testing programme aimed at preventing deaths in the two areas of New Zealand with the highest death rate from the disease.

Mr Cunliffe said bringing the shadow cabinet to Dunedin was a show of support for the city he believed had been hurt by Government policies over the past six years.

In 2011, National won the party vote in South Dunedin, something Labour cannot let happen again, if it wants to form the next government.

Labour would soon launch more of its ''Economic Upgrade'' policy, aimed at the business community.

The policy aimed at providing better jobs and higher wages for New Zealanders.

Recently, Mr Cunliffe had launched the framework of the policy, followed by a forestry policy aimed at attracting to the sector investment, industry development and innovation.

The next speech would launch the party's manufacturing policy, following on from the manufacturing inquiry held last year.

''This will be of specific interest to Dunedin South, which still has a heavy manufacturing heart.''

Dunedin North MP David Clark, who is the party's small business spokesman, was on a nationwide tour formulating a policy to help support the sector, Mr Cunliffe said.

Before Budget 2014 next month, Labour would paint a clear contrast between itself and National.

In particular, Mr Cunliffe and his team would focus on how the Government accounted for its ''paper-thin surplus'' when there was a nearly $1 billion hole in the forecast tax take.

''There is a bigger question to answer than the Government reaching fiscal balance. We, too, want the books to be in black but it is not the complete solution.''

With dairy prices at record highs, confidence remained high. However, the strong exchange rate was hurting manufacturing exporters, he said.

''We need to improve our savings regime so there is not so much importance placed on property, strengthen the domestic finance sector and clamp down on tax avoidance through trusts and company structures.

''In the current Government, Bill English is not Finance Minister - just the accountant-in-chief. Bean-counting is his only job.''

Asked how he intended countering the raft of good news flowing from the economy at present, including continual surveys pointing to soaring business and consumer confidence, Mr Cunliffe said Labour, like most New Zealanders, would celebrate the good times.

Unfortunately, some New Zealanders were missing out.

''The 20-year highs in dairy prices are starting to come off. You can see that in the GlobalDairyTrade auctions. Lower prices have not yet flowed through into the payouts. There is a risk in putting all your cows in one basket.''

dene.mackenzie@odt.co.nz

Lift your game Labour

C'mon Labour - you have to do much better then this to get my vote - again. You blew your chances last election by announcing your "big" proposals too close to the election, and it is starting to look like a repeat in 2014.

Announcing minor stuff about trailer registration will not cut the mustard! I am looking for strong financial incentives that will generate a real lift for employment for New Zealanders within NZ. I want to see a halt to reacting to National's pithy comments. Ignore them, like most of the thinking voters do. Start to take the lead in the election campaign instead of being a follower of John Key. Oh, and I want to know in advance exactly how Labour will fund pre-election promises!

Stop treating the voting public as morons who will be swayed by trivial promises. I want to see big long-term policies that will turn NZ around and away from becoming a lap-dog of foriegn countries. And that means no more stupid "think-big" National style projects. They have all crashed or been sold off. Lift your game - now.  

Support for FSB?

The goverment was very pro-active in encouraging the DCC to build FSB in time for their showcase event, yet their financal input was a measly $15m, 1/2 what they gave Rio Tinto, way less than the $500m they were going to spend on a waterfront stadium for Auckland (probably realistically closer to $1 billion), a lot less than the $300m touted for the proposed Christchurch stadium. 

There is also a difference between an increase in spending and an increase to meet actual needs ie the hospital. A $1 increase allows them to say they have increased spending in..... It doesn't mean it's enough.

Hillside 150m? I can only guess thats  includes the value of the contact for the engines and wagons because at the time the difference in bids was approx 8mil. So by his reasoning we are bailing out a chinese compay by 140 odd million. HQ also prevent hillside from even making a bid on some contracts, it was setup to fail so it could be closed and sold.

Mr Woodhouse only comes out to defend National , when does he actually defend Dunedin?

Agree

I agree with Trev. I worked at Hillside and listened to then CEO Jim Quinn state that Hillside couldn't build container wagons because he wanted to run a freight company, not an engineering company. So they imported wagons from China, which have proven unreliable, as have the DL locomotives. Hillside management informed workers that they needed $4 million to produce wagons - admittedly at a slower rate - competitively with the imported wagons.
Hillside-built wagons were priced delivered in New Zealand, but imported wagons were delivered at an export port in the country of origin, meaning they had to be shipped and assembled once they arrived and as they were now KiwiRail property that cost would have been an extra.
David, this wasn't a level playing field. You stated at Hillside you would re-open it when your'e next in power, but I believe Hillside has been gutted so as to make it impractical to re-open. Please release the relevant documents and hold those in KiwiRail and the Key-led government accountable. [Abridged]

Stadium loan

If Dunedin's National MP really wants to help Dunedin let him put a proposal to Government and argue a case for the Government to pay off the loan for the ugly stadium that does not fit into the cityscape of Dunedin. Maybe then they would be seen to help Dunedin out of the place it has fallen into over the past few years with decisions made by people who care more about themselves than the greater community they say they serve.

 

What next is Cunliffe --

What next is Cunliffe going to come out with, to say "The Government had a vendetta against Dunedin" is nothing but pure political badmouthing to try and make him and Labour look as if they will solve it all. What a load of rubbish,but what else can you expect from that Labour/Green lot!

Woodhouse porkies

Once again the unelected MP Michael Woodhouse is tossing unsubstantiated figures around. He states, " Keeping Hillside open would have required a $150 million subsidy from taxpay.ers, he said."  This is a blatant  untruth. Hillside could have remained open if National had insisted that foreign wagon construction bidders enter into a joint contract with Hillside instead of awarding the total contract offshore. Despite repeated OIA requests to Kiwirail to divulge the wagon construction bid quotes, they will only issue heavily censored documents with Hillside quotes blacked out. If National had tossed $15,000,000 to Hillside instead of the stadium it would be a bit more popular in Dunedin! 

Listen to what you say

So Mr Woodhouse claims to be Dunedin's National MP, but why isn't he leading the call to help protect and grow Dunedin's economy rather than just sniping from his ministerial limo? He says Cunliffe offers no new ideas, and does exactly the same thing himself.

His claim that the government's funding of the rugby stadium is something wonderful that his government has done for Dunedin's economy shows a woeful understanding of basic economics - the mortgage alone drains about $20m from our economy to Aussie banks, every year or 20 years, his government's $15m for one year is a trickle in the bucket compared to the financial disaster that it has helped cause.

If National actually wants votes from Dunedin they need to take some of their attention away from Auckland and stop continually funneling our taxes north to try and buy votes at the other end of the country.

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