The announcement of the sale of the century old Hillside Workshops is not good news, despite the spin from politicians and KiwiRail CEO Jim Quinn.
Who in their right mind would want to buy it? The Hillside workshops make and repair rolling stock, and they are very good at it. But KiwiRail is the only user of rolling stock in the country, and they won’t give their work to Hillside. They outsource it overseas.
What are the odds that Hillside will end up like Dunedin’s former Central Post Office, snapped up by property speculators and bought and sold on a regular basis but left sitting empty for decades, sucking the life out of the surrounding area?
Dunedin could have been a centre of engineering excellence with thousands of skilled jobs, much needed training opportunities, and a thriving local economy, had successive governments not shipped offshore billions of dollars of taxpayer funded work that could have been done at the Hillside workshops.
The sale of Hillside has obviously been an agenda item for both KiwiRail and the government for some time. They have been working towards it, downsizing the workshop by starving it of contracts in favour of outsourcing, and all the while making noises about it being uneconomic to do the work in New Zealand, despite research to the contrary. And waiting until the 2011 election was safely in the bag for National.
The sale of Hillside is not an unfortunate accident or a by product of the world economic crisis. It is the result of a morally bankrupt ideology that seeks to to drive down the price of labour while at the same time allowing those at the top to become mega wealthy. It is a failure to acknowledge that everyone is entitled to a living wage. And it is financial suicide for New Zealand when our own government makes this the cornerstone of its procurement policy.