Lack of plan for maritime industry a serious problem

Maritime Union of New Zealand General Secretary Joe Fleetwood says recent statements from Minister of Transport Stephen Joyce and retiring Pacifica Shipping Chief Executive Rod Grout on New Zealand ports and shipping show the need for immediate action in the maritime industry.

Mr Fleetwood says it is incorrect for the National Government to say they want market forces decide the future of the maritime industry, when massive taxpayer investment was directed at roads and rail.

He says that a “hands off” approach to the maritime industry means major market players would dominate the market and make decisions that could harm New Zealand’s transport infrastructure.

“The warning from Rod Grout that New Zealand cargo could end up being hubbed through Australian ports is a very real possibility, which would result in further loss of control of New Zealand exports and downgrading of our transport infrastructure.”

Mr Fleetwood says the Union is advocating a KiwiPort concept which would see co-ordination of ports at a national level, a level of investment by Government, and a planned approach to New Zealand’s transport needs.

He says an example of the much promoted “market forces” causing havoc are the moves by Fonterra to shift its products onto long distance rail rather than through local ports which had damaged the Port of Timaru in 2009.

“The path proposed by the current Government is to do nothing and let destructive parochial competition play out between our ports and a few self-interested big players.”

He says New Zealand has continued to be disadvantaged by its dependence on global shippers who controlled port trade.

“As a trading nation and a maritime island nation, it is irresponsible and short sighted to have no long term direction for our maritime transport industry set by the Government.”

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