Taranaki 'powerhouse' of New Zealand claim questioned

SUSAN STRONGMAN
Last updated 05:00 11/04/2014
Labour MP Andrew Little
Labour MP Andrew Little
steven joyce
Associate Finance Minister Steven Joyce

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Claims that Taranaki is the powerhouse of the New Zealand economy were questioned by Labour list MP Andrew Little in Parliament yesterday.

During question time Little asked Minister for Economic Development Steven Joyce if he still stood by his statement that Taranaki was one of, if not the leading region in the country.

Joyce said he stood by the statement.

The questions were followed by a claim by Little that 25 jobs would soon be lost at New Plymouth firm Fitzroy Engineering.

But Fitzroy Engineering's managing director Richard Ellis said the claim was not entirely accurate.

"We are looking at the possibility," Ellis said, but added that the redundancies were not confirmed and the business was hoping to find work soon.

Ellis said business was particularly tough in the engineering sector and the problem was not specific to Fitzroy Engineering.

"We need to find work pretty quickly."

In Parliament, Little asked Joyce what was being done to ensure Taranaki's engineering sector was supported through such tough times.

"What commitments is the minister prepared to make to ensure the highly skilled engineering workers of Taranaki can be retained in the region?"

He asked Joyce if he would commit to upgrading SH3 north or join with Port Taranaki to improve its infrastructure and readiness for offshore oil emergencies.

Joyce confirmed he would commit to "continue to encourage investment in the oil and gas industry in this region" which he said the Government was encouraging today.

The news of possible jobs lost at Fitzroy Engineering could add to a string of recent redundancies in Taranaki including 15 job losses at engineering firm Tenix and about 120 at luxury boatbuilder Fitzroy Yachts.

Ellis said the company's struggle to find work was partly due to the strong New Zealand dollar, which did not help when bidding for jobs in Australia.

He said extra workers had been taken on last year by Fitzroy Engineering, which employed more than 400 staff, during upgrade and restart work for companies such as Methanex.

If redundancies were made it would be reducing staff numbers back to a more normal level.

Ellis said he had hoped the higher demand for work would continue on from last year, but it did not.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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