Unified front to help sell Hillside

Dunedin's city leaders have officially put up a unified front to do whatever it takes to smoothly roll through the sale of Hillside Engineering.

KiwiRail chief executive Jim Quinn met the 123 Hillside workshops staff earlier this month to announce the business would be advertised for sale as a going concern from early May. A final decision is due by the end of August.

The announcement left some concerned that it would be the end for the historic railway engineering facility.

However, Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie said the fight for its survival would continue.

Representatives from Parliament, the Dunedin City Council, local engineering firms, unions, the Otago Chamber of Commerce and Hillside Engineering met yesterday to discuss the way forward for Hillside.

"We've agreed to have a unified front so that any potential buyer will be able to work with the city as a whole, to ensure we have a buyer that wants to enhance and grow the business, using the skills and resources available at Hillside."

Mr Christie said the group of city representatives would continue to meet regularly, to provide whatever support it could to KiwiRail during the sale process.

Mr Quinn said KiwiRail staff had been in Dunedin this week, gathering as much information about Hillside as possible so interested buyers could make an assessment of the business "quickly and easily".

Rail and Maritime Transport Union general secretary Wayne Butson has said if the city could attract a buyer who could bring in existing contracts, a workload, innovation, a bit of money and some determination, he had no doubt Hillside could survive.

KiwiRail's decision to sell was made after analysing the financial impact of the reduction in construction and refurbishment forward work orders for Hillside.

While the sale terms were negotiable, the company's preferred outcome was for it to be bought as a going concern.

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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