Political, business leaders push to promote Hillside workshops

Providing initiatives to win work for KiwiRail's Hillside Engineering are (clockwise from back),...
Providing initiatives to win work for KiwiRail's Hillside Engineering are (clockwise from back), Clare Curran, John Christie, Penny Morris, Sue O'Connell, Michael Woodhouse, John Whitaker, Greg Wainsink, Luke Stewart, Metiria Turei, Cara Bradley, Grant Donaldson, Jim Kelly, Les Ingram, Des Adamson, Pete Hodgson (obscured). Photo by Peter Mcintosh.
KiwiRail's Hillside workshops may have won a $40 million contract to deliver carriages to Tranz Scenic, but it has not stopped Government, Dunedin City Council and Dunedin business representatives from moving ahead with plans to win at least some construction work on the $500 million tender for Auckland's trains.

A meeting was held at the Otago Chamber of Commerce yesterday to discuss the next move following KiwiRail's decision to prohibit Hillside Engineering from submitting a tender for part of the $500 million contract to build 38 three-car electric multiple units and 13 electric locomotives.

It was chaired by Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie and attended by Dunedin City Council economic development adviser Des Adamson, National List MP Michael Woodhouse, Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei, Dunedin North Labour MP Pete Hodgson, Dunedin South Labour MP Clare Curran, Farra Engineering chief executive John Whitaker, EB McDonald managing director Greg Wainsink and Rail and Maritime Transport Union national president Jim Kelly, Hillside branch chairman Grant Donaldson and Hillside branch secretary Les Ingram.

Following the meeting, Mr Christie said those at the meeting knew Hillside had won a contract to deliver 20 carriages for operator Tranz Scenic, but it did not overshadow the intent of the meeting.

"There were a lot of politicians and business people in the room, all with the common aim of maximising the economic benefit that we can get as a country and as a city, and to maximise the job opportunities - both again as a country and as a city.

"I don't think people understand what we can do here in New Zealand. So, we are doing a capability report to send to tenderers, to let them know exactly what we can do.

"There's a huge amount of capability in Dunedin that is still untapped," he said.

The group set wheels in motion during the meeting yesterday in its bid to win at least some of the work involved in the Auckland electric rail units tender.

A letter was drafted to KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn, asking him to give serious consideration to "a Kiwi content provision" in the tender documents.

Another letter was drafted to Minister for Economic Development Gerry Brownlee, asking for his assistance through the industry capability network to look at helping the group prepare a capability assessment report.

Mr Christie said the group was keen to communicate New Zealand's capabilities to build components of the trains and he believed there were various scenarios in which Dunedin and New Zealand could be involved in construction.

There was also the possibility the trains could be built off-shore and sent to New Zealand in kitset form, to be reassembled at Hillside, Mr Christie said.

"We may also be able to get maintenance contracts for the trains which would ensure they have a significant 'whole-of-life' benefit."

The group would continue to meet weekly.

- john.lewis@odt.co.nz


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