Losing 90 jobs at Hillside Engineering is a catastrophic
outcome for South Dunedin, Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull says.
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"The effect on South Dunedin will be pretty dismal," a
disappointed Mr Cull said yesterday.
It was imperative the city retained as many of the 90 skilled
workers as possible, he said, as they were an important
resource for Dunedin.
However, he was at least reassured that Bradken had displayed
confidence in Dunedin's future by leasing the railway
workshops' foundry operation.
"It's the consolation prize," Mr Cull said.
It was a shame the Government had not shown similar
confidence in Dunedin as a manufacturing base, by supporting
The Dunedin City Council part-funded a Business and Economic
Research Ltd (Berl) report in 2010, which made a strong
economic case for constructing rolling stock locally, rather
than sending work offshore.
"The Berl report identified that there was potential, and
Government policy clearly didn't allow that to be brought to
With limited funds for economic development, the council must
think "cleverly" to assist the city's engineering cluster,
and South Dunedin.
The council was putting considerable effort into South
Dunedin, a community with significant challenges, and this
latest blow would be factored in to those efforts.
National list MP Michael Woodhouse yesterday discounted the
2010 Berl report as "nonsense". He disputed Berl's financial
analysis of the situation, and said the organisation provided
"opinions for hire".
Mr Cull said he had no reason to doubt Berl's expertise or
Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie said
while the loss of 90 jobs was a "psychological blow" for
Dunedin, he was pleased Bradken had leased the foundry.
His focus was working with other stakeholders to ensure as
many of the workers were employed in the local engineering
sector as possible.
Dozens of engineering businesses would be affected by a loss
of subcontracting work through KiwiRail's operations winding
down, he said.
Despite this, the sector was strong enough to absorb some of
the laid-off workers. How many got jobs remained to be seen,
Farra Engineering chief executive John Whitaker said he did
not believe the impact on Dunedin businesses from the loss of
subcontracting would be great, although losing the Hillside
workshops removed some opportunities for work.
His company was busy, and was recruiting fabrication workers
and fitters, although he could not specify how many. He was
keen to employ as many of the redundant workers as possible.
Other Dunedin engineering businesses he knew of were
Asked if absorbing additional workers would reduce the number
of apprentices Farra could take next year, Mr Whitaker said
it would not.
South Dunedin Business Association president Jane Orbell said
locals were shocked at yesterday's news.
However, she did not think surrounding businesses would
Rejuvenation efforts were drawing more people to South
Dunedin, which would help offset the loss of KiwiRail jobs.
Local businesspeople were a resilient bunch, and were in for
the long haul in South Dunedin, she said.
Methodist Mission chief executive Laura Black said the job
losses were an "absolute tragedy".
She could not see how that many jobs could be absorbed in the
local economy, and thought many workers were likely to leave
Manufacturing was being steadily wound down in New Zealand,
which took its toll in increasing social problems, she said.