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Unions Otago, the local affiliate council of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions Te Kauae Kaimahi, is supporting the Keep Dunedin Rail Rolling Campaign.
The campaign is calling for the Dunedin City Council to stop a plan to mothball Dunedin Railways, which includes the Taieri Gorge Railway.
Last month, it was announced 51 staff were likely to be made redundant as Dunedin Railways mothballed its track and equipment to avoid closing entirely.
Unions Otago convenor Andrew Tait said the council-owned company employed many local people and was a significant local asset.
“Rail is twice as efficient as road. It shouldn’t be seen as a relic of the past but a key to the future. This is a chance for the council to show their talk about climate change is not more hot air.”
He said it was a ''golden opportunity'' to explore a local commuter rail service that would allow Otago to transition away from private vehicles towards free and frequent public transport and a low-carbon future.
“It is unlikely Dunedin Rail will cater to cruise ships for a while but that doesn’t mean the stock can’t be repurposed and staff can’t be retrained.”
Mr Tait said that would cost more in the short term but pay off in the long term.
Workers in Dunedin did not want to see cuts to jobs and services when there were alternative options and the availability of Government support as New Zealand emerged from the Covid 19 lockdown, he said.
“We need to beat the short-term, quick-buck thinking that has bedevilled NZ for a generation."
The Dunedin Railways Ltd workers are represented by the NZCTU-affiliated Rail and Maritime Transport Union.