Four unions representing maritime and rail workers have condemned the Government’s decision to effectively cancel the Cook Strait iRex ferry upgrade project, and are demanding the resignation of the Minister of Finance for the decision.
The four unions are the Maritime Union of New Zealand representing seafarers, the Rail and Maritime Transport Union representing rail workers, the New Zealand Merchant Service Guild representing ship’s masters and officers, and the Aviation and Marine Engineers Association representing marine engineers.
Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison says it is not tenable that such a major decision with massive implications for the economy should be made in such a ‘fast and loose’ manner.
“This is far more than a fiscal decision – this decision shows poor judgement and a total lack of understanding of the importance of a functioning Cook Strait connection to New Zealand’s supply chain.”
He says the ongoing technical issues with Cook Strait ferries are a result of end of life vessels being used on a notoriously challenging crossing and had resulted in serious incidents in the last few years.
“The can has been kicked down the road for years and the upgrade has to happen now.”
“This Government campaigned on getting our transport infrastructure sorted and their first move is to basically jeopardize the future of road and rail transport between the North and South Island.”
Rail and Maritime Transport Union General Secretary Todd Valster says the ferry upgrade project was an essential part of maintaining a ‘fit for purpose’ national transport system initiated by the previous Labour Government.
He says the new Government’s decision to dump the project was reckless and indicated an agenda to run down key parts of our transport infrastructure.
“The iRex project would deliver fit for purpose, modern vessels and terminals, that would provide reliability, resilience, low emissions and a safe service.”
Mr Valster says the iRex project would deliver a long term solution for the Cook Strait over decades, which justified the cost of the project.
He says the Minister of Finance and the Government had made an irresponsible decision that would cost millions to rectify by breaking contracts with overseas suppliers, and leave the Cook Strait connection with third rate, ageing infrastructure.