Socialism in South Dunedin? Seymour slammed over Hillside North Korea jibe

An advocate of the Government's $85 million allocation to Dunedin rail wagon assembly plant says it will bring huge benefits to the country and called ACT Party's criticism of the move "ludicrous".

Local reaction to the news that Hillside railway workshops is to be given a new lease of life has been universally positive.

The funding forms part of the 2021 Budget announcement made yesterday, which will now see the workshop assembling about 1500 wagons.

The workshops effectively closed in 2012 with 90 people losing their jobs. There had been a $20m boost two years ago to upgrade the workshops before the latest expansion plan.

The Budget 2021 funding for Hillside Workshops was welcome news to (from left) Rail and Maritime...
The Budget 2021 funding for Hillside Workshops was welcome news to (from left) Rail and Maritime Transport Union Otago delegate Dave Barclay, women’s delegate Brooke Loper, and branch secretary Dave Kearns. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
State Owned Enterprises Minister David Clark said the investment would bring local jobs and youth training opportunities, as well as a more self-reliant national railway system.

Transport Minister Michael Wood said about 445 jobs would be created between Hillside and a new South Island Mechanical Maintenance Hub in Christchurch.

However, critics on the right were less impressed with the move, with the Taxpayers Union comparing it to communist-run Polish shipyards.

ACT leader David Seymour said North Korea would not even be bold enough to take on policies like that.

"This is a 1970s union fantasy that men will be working away with hot steel and sledge hammers banging together locomotives and wagons in a big warehouse in Dunedin. This is this government's idea of innovation," Seymour told the House.

Railways and Maritime Union national secretary Wayne Butson told Morning Report a previously-commissioned study found the Hillside operation would bring huge benefits both to New Zealand and Otago, and that it illustrated the "ludicrous comedy of David Seymour" and fellow travelers in the Taxpayers Union on the issue.

"One thing I can guarantee that David Seymour will have wrong is that it will not be all men that will be assembling the wagons and vehicles at Hillside workshops," Butson said.

ACT leader David Seymour. Photo: RNZ
ACT leader David Seymour. Photo: RNZ
Participation by women in a traditionally male-dominated industry had increased 14 percent since 2019 and women now represented a significant section of that workforce, he said.

Hillside was able to compete with relatively cheap overseas manufacturing operations, especially in terms of quality assurance and offered value for money, the union leader said.

"This government has commissioned reports, we've participated in studies and it's very clear that if you compare what Hillside can, could and will do against what our purchase decisions in the rail industry have been like over the past 10 years, we're going to end up with far superior products.

"Let us not forgot that we have a railway that is absolutely saturated with dog-and-lemon Chinese-manufactured locomotives that were full of asbestos even though it was promised they wouldn't be and they are as unreliable as hell. At any one time, there's about 40 of them out of service getting repaired - that's almost half the fleet."

He said the moves to invest in local manufacturing should be applauded because they reversed a destructive, orchestrated decline of rail systems throughout the country and would make the economy and transport systems more resilient.

"The problem with KiwiRail has been that in 2008, the government renationalised Tranz Rail... and in 2009 we had the election of a National Government, who declared war on railway and they declared war on Dunedin and wider Otago," Butson said.

"The loss of jobs has been appalling. So we think this really makes a difference to the so-called managed decline, the orchestrated decline of rail. It will see new facilities, new buildings, new amenities and more importantly, decent world-class ICT systems and of course, Waitako DHB has shown us the importance of having those."



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It never ceases to amaze me just how out of touch National, ACT and the Taxpayers "union" are with the electorate. I'm looking forward to the next polling results coming out, and wondering if they have the ability to go negative (like National, ACT and TPu seem to be on every issue anyway).

Hard not to acknowledge the jobs for the local economy but it has to be some of the worst targeted spending in the budget. My thoughts are more aligned with the opposition, than the Government, in terms of the commentary. Equally hard not to acknowledge the Labour Party caucus is being controlled by powerful internal factions, starting with unions, trying to flog a dead horse.

You agree with the pejorative 'Polish shipyards'? Solidarnosc! Out of town comment on Our Place is woefully ignorant. Talkin' 'bout The Flat: vast rallies during the Maritime Strike, 1891.

Does Seymour not recall the costs to NZ of the carriages made overseas needing asbestos removal and with a multitude of problems. It is always time to invest in New Zealanders capable of doing these jobs, that have been in fashion to be given overseas and then we pay again to fix for purpose. Believe in NZers - give us a chance in our own country.

Asbestos , substandard brakes , incorrect gauges are just a few of the problems (let alone the ongoing ones) that meant the 'cheaper' option cost us more than we saved by not constructing them or ourselves . Not surprising that hillside was not even allow to tender for the work and then effectively closed due to 'lack of work' when you see how many ex national mps have worked/work for major chinese companies and/or banks .

The Union are happy they still have employees to bludge fees off and retain their jobs, and who is actually going to use these carriages certainly not for public transport as we have seen with the new service between Hamilton and Auckland being a complete disaster,

Reliance on overseas necessities risks being a pawn in international political shenanigans. We need the capacity to do more for and by ourselves. The skills used in building rail wagons are also used in building other things i.e. they are trades with transferable adaptable skill sets. The success of "Old NZ" number 8 wire tradition was due to the number of people with a wide range of practical knowhow who could invent, adapt, mend when imports were not available or were too expensive.

Disagree with Seymour on this one.
The world order has change since COVID and the dangers of outsourcing manufacturing to communist countries is a national security issue.
There is no financial benefit in spending our money in countries that then require us to spend more on defence or constantly have us looking over our shoulder.
Cheap products come at a cost one way or another.
The trick will be making sure management don't become union lackies and the workshops are run on a competitive and progressive (in the true meaning of the word) footing.
We mustn't let the workshops stagnant like they have in the past.
Then they will be a national asset and not the liability they were in the past.

Fringe parties often make ludicrous statements to gain oxygen.

ACT think 1980's Rogernomics is still the answer, when after 30 years of experimentation it is a colossal failure.
They have zero credibility, and are frankly dangerous with some of their more extreme policies.

"Rogernomics" was a necessary correction to the distortions created by Muldoon govt's OTT protectionism and subsidies. Then as in other countries it turned into a religion, "The Market Is Always Best", then a cult of which Seymour/ACT are still yeah/nah wavering adherents, some members more fervent believers than others.

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