Qualified support for South Island ports merger

The Maritime Union of New Zealand has offered qualified support to the merger of Lyttelton Port Company and the Port of Otago announced today.

Maritime Union General Secretary Trevor Hanson says the Union is a strong backer of ports remaining in local control to preserve employment and business opportunities.

“We are pleased to see local control as the Union has long been opposed to the loss of key infrastructure to overseas interests.”

Mr Hanson says the relationship between the new structure and the Ports of Timaru and Southport (Bluff) needs to be looked at.

“It is our view that any process should involve other ports in the region, New Zealand cannot afford to have port rationalization disrupt local economies and cause problems at a time of global recession. Ports are not ordinary businesses – they are the essential part of the supply chain between New Zealand and the global economy.”

Mr Hanson says the Union is watching developments closely as it is concerned to about members jobs.

“Obviously this announcement will mean the long talked about process of port rationalization is now well underway, but we have to ensure the process is carried out in a sensible way to minimize any insecurity or confusion.”

Mr Hanson says the opportunity is there for a national ports plan and some form of national ownership to avoid the tendency to parochial competition and duplication of resources under the current model.

“Could it be time to consider KiwiPort?”

He says the current world financial crisis makes the Port Chalmers-Lyttelton announcement all the more relevant.

Mr Hanson says the move is a natural fit for recent moves by the Government to encourage domestic coastal shipping.

“The only caution we have is that employees of these companies are given every consideration in retaining employment within any new structure that evolves.”

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