Manufacturing crisis 'disastrous'

NICOLE PRYOR
Last updated 12:31 12/10/2012
John Walley
SECTOR CRISIS: John Walley, CEO of the NZ Manufacturers and Exporters Association, says the sector is in crisis.

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Business owners have painted a "disastrous" picture of New Zealand's manufacturing sector at a job summit in Auckland this morning.

Selwyn Pellet, a technology entrepreneur who has hired hundreds of Kiwis and exported half a billion dollars worth of product overseas, told the EPMU job summit the manufacturing crisis has been a long time coming.

"I said in 2007 these settings were disastrous, and now you're starting to feel the effects," he said.

"Since 2001, I have exported exactly the same amount. There's been no change in anything I've done, but my income has halved."

He said unless the Government looks to rein in the high Kiwi dollar, there was no reason for him to keep his business in New Zealand.

"At 80 cents to the dollar, I start thinking about hiring US staff instead of New Zealanders. Dollar-for-dollar, there is no logical reason for my businesses to be here."

Pellet said he has hired more than 300 New Zealanders, and though he cannot afford to keep them on, he said it was "morally wrong" to get rid of them.

The summit has been held to address what the EPMU has called a national job crisis.

According to the union, the get-together was prompted by a spate of high-profile redundancies and the emergence of a "trades drain" to Australia as Kiwis move across the ditch in search of work.

It cited mass redundancies at Solid Energy's Spring Creek and Huntly East mines, the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter and Fisher & Paykel Appliances as examples.

John Walley, the chief executive of the New Zealand Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said if New Zealand carried along the same path, it could expect to say farewell to many more jobs.

"There is a crisis. Expect to see more of what we've seen accelerating over the last couple of months."

A business panel including Pellet and Peter Conway from the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions have talked.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman, Labour's finance spokesperson David Parker and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters will be on a political panel.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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