Key: Invermay not fait accompli
Prime Minister John Key has denied the Government contributed to large-scale public sector and manufacturing job losses in the south.
Visiting Dunedin yesterday, Mr Key said indicators showed the southern region economies were healthy.
Recent Dunedin job losses, especially over the past year, include KiwiRail's decision to downsize and then sell its Hillside Engineering Workshops in the city, and a string of closures including Dunedin's New Zealand Post Mail Centre.
Government Crown Research heads are proposing to downsize their Invermay scientific research facility in Dunedin over three years and move the research to AgResearch Lincoln in Canterbury.
That would result in the loss of about 80 further jobs and has implications for agriculturalists in the south.
Many staff have indicated they will not go to Lincoln.
But in a media conference after visiting three city businesses yesterday, Mr Key denied the Government had played a big role in the job losses.
"In the end I don't think the Government is driving the process that says people should not invest in Dunedin - quite the opposite actually," he said. New Zealand Trade and Development was working with "a couple of hundred companies" in the south.
Mr Key rejected suggestions that the future of Invermay was a fait accompli.
"My understanding is the board of AgResearch get to independently make the decision and that they are going to have to discussions with the [Crown Research] Minister Stephen Joyce," he said.
"I think the minister has made it very clear that he wants them to be both open-minded and to think about the consequences of their actions, including whether they will be able to retain the staff if they were to reduce the number of jobs at Invermay."
Mr Key said the board was "genuinely going through a consultation period" and "Government is listening".
"And [the Government is] trying to make sure we talk to that board before they make that call," he said.
He defended the AgResearch board decision this week not to meet Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull, who is campaigning against the loss of Invermay.
"The board is going through a process with the most important people. AgResearch has to talk to its staff and that's what it's been doing. "There will be time for them to go talk to the mayor and to others, and that includes the Government. "We've just been letting them get on with their consultation.
"But the minister has spelt out that we expect them to be very open-minded."
- © Fairfax NZ News
Check out what's on in your community or post an upcoming event.
Subscribe to a digital replica of The Southland Times.
Southland Times subscriber news and information.
Click here for information about advertising with The Southland Times.