Value-add is sidelined while Jones enthuses about railways and export logs

Just as we anticipated, Shane Jones left the Kapiti Coast yesterday and crossed the Rimutakas to distribute more largesse from the Provincial Growth Fund in the Wairarapa.

He did not travel by train (so far as we know), but he spoke as Associate Minister of Transport to extol the virtues of rail transport and explained why PGF goodies were being invested in KiwiRail and rail hubs.

He also spoke as Minister of Forestry to enthuse about trees and the economic potential of logging.

Logging?

Yep. Value-add seemed to have been forgotten – the talk was about humping logs to ports by rail for shipping overseas.

Perhaps that’s why he wasn’t wearing his Regional Economic Development hat.  Economic development calls for doing something more than chopping trees down and sending logs to China.

But he was wearing his Regional Economic Development ministerial hat when he joined Employment Minister Willy Jackson in announcing an investment in job training while emphasising the government’s particular focus on Maori projects with job-generating opportunities.

Funding chanelled from the PGF would be pumped into the Nga Pumanawa Tupuna programme “to upskill local rangatahi to help meet the demand for workers in industries like farming, construction and hospitality”.  

But not logging? Or industries based on forestry?

Obviously an oversight.

Around the same time as Jones and Jackson were making their announcement, a Gisborne forestry contractor was calling for Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway’s resignation and complaining that delays in processing migrant worker visas are costing the industry hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Jason Koia currently employs 24 fulltime workers, 10 of them are from overseas. He is still looking for up to 40 more planters this season, and told Checkpoint he was being stymied by unreasonable immigration wait times.

You can listen to him here. 

Mr Koia said he paid top dollar – $30 a box of 100 seedlings planted – and some of his workers make $2000 a week.

But despite this, and an extensive local recruitment campaign, he simply cannot get locals to fill the jobs.

This has obvious adverse implications for the government’s goal of planting a billion trees by 2028 to support a low-emission economy, protect the environment and create ongoing employment.  Jones is in charge of this programme.

Koia said migrant workers were the most productive in the sector and propped up the industry.

“Migrant workers are reliable, they’re honest, they’re trustworthy, they’re drug free, they’re alcohol free … they’re easy to train and they hit production targets every day. They’re fantastic workers.”

He said about 95 per cent of local workers did not stay in the industry.

The Point of Order Trough Monitor registered these statements from Jones’ office –

2 JULY 2019

More logs on trains in Wairarapa

Forestry and Associate Transport Minister Shane Jones said moving another 100,000 tonnes of logs by rail from the Wairarapa to CentrePort benefits the region and means 6,000 fewer truck trips annually.

Along with representatives from KiwiRail, CentrePort, the forestry sector and councils, Jones attended an event in Masterton to mark the start of larger log trains from the Waingawa rail hub which will be able to carry 40 per cent more logs to Wellington’s port.

“The industry has been clear there is a lot of potential to grow harvest export volumes from the Wairarapa, but not without beefing up the supply chain. KiwiRail has stepped up, adding wagons to their trains to carry around 100,000 tonnes more logs to CentrePort each year,” Shane Jones said.

“Not only are these log trains supporting the forestry industry to get its goods to market, the increased rail capacity reduces carbon emissions and will see 6,000 fewer logging truck trips annually across the Remutakas and into central Wellington.”

Log harvests in the south-eastern section of the North Island were predicted to increase to 1.65 million tonnes in the next five years and stay that way into the 2030s. Trucks alone won’t be able to manage the future harvest volumes.

“I see a real opportunity to get even more export logs on to rail. We need to take a more inter-modal approach to transport and make greater use of rail and hubs like Waingawa, and KiwiRail are already beginning discussions with CentrePort and the forestry sector on possible further increases.

“That’s why the Government, through the Provincial Growth Fund, has invested $6.2 million in reopening the Napier-Wairoa line and establishing a log hub at Wairoa. There’s also $4 million funding earmarked for a log hub in Dannevirke, and $40 million for a road-rail freight hub near Palmerston North.”

Greater use of rail made the supply chain more resilient, which was crucial for New Zealand as an export led-economy, Jones said

Earlier this year road works on the Rimutaka Hill Road stopped trucks getting logs to port, creating big problems for the forestry and trucking industries.

“This mode-neutral approach helps realise the Government’s ambitions to grow our forestry sector, reduce emissions, and get rail back on track,” Shane Jones said.

Data tucked into the press statement show:

  • Last year KiwiRail transported approximately 270,000 tonnes of logs from the Waingawa hub. The company is increasing the number wagons from 30 to 45 across the two daily services to Wellington, enabling approximately 370,000 tonnes to be transported to port annually.
  • Transporting 370,000 tonnes by rail is estimated to avoid more than 22,000 truck trips over the Rimutaka Hill and down State Highway 2 into Wellington each year.
  • The Waingawa hub was first opened in 2012, then extended and operated by CentrePort from 2016.

2 JULY 2019

Skills and training funding for Wairarapa rangatahi

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and Employment Minister Willie Jackson announced the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will invest $948,000 in getting young people work-ready in the Wairarapa,

Nga Pumanawa Tupuna, run by local training provider Youth, Education, Training and Employment, will use the funding to target 110 at-risk rangatahi aged 16-24 and build their skills and confidence for the workforce.

The programme will be run in partnership with Rural Education Action Programme (REAP) Wairarapa and will receive funding over two years from the He Poutama Rangatahi (HPR) initiative, which is funded in turn by the PGF.

HPR supports youth (aged 15-24) not in employment, education or training (NEET) on pathways to employment.

“This project helps solve issues in the Wairarapa such as high NEET rates and skills shortages by involving local people who know the area and its challenges the best. We’re committed to reducing youth unemployment by supporting programmes where there is a clear need, and by helping rangatahi develop the skills and confidence to get them into further education, training or work,” Willie Jackson said.

“The programme will draw on Youth, Education, Training and Employment’s proven success in supporting rangatahi and its extensive networks within the community. In addition to this, the programme’s strong grounding in tikanga Māori will give students an even greater chance of achieving their goals.”

Jones says the funding has a clear fit with the region’s economic development strategy.

“The Nga Pumanawa Tupuna programme supports the region to upskill local rangatahi to help meet the demand for workers in industries like farming, construction and hospitality. Meeting this labour shortage is essential for the Wairarapa to unlock its full economic potential, while helping to remove barriers so its young people have a greater chance of finding sustainable employment.”

Youth, Education, Training and Employment is also supported by the three district councils in the region and is the first scheme HPR has supported outside its initial trial regions of Te Tai Tokerau, Eastern Bay of Plenty, Gisborne/Tairāwhiti and Hawke’s Bay.

“The Coalition Government is focused on improving outcomes for our young people, with a particular focus on lifting the incomes, skills, and opportunities of Māori. I’m glad that, once again, the PGF has been able to support a programme that turns this rhetoric into action,” Shane Jones said.

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