Shearer: We need to save factory jobs

By Mike Dinsdale

The number of manufacturing jobs in Northland has fallen by more than 28 per cent in less than five years, a sign that there were no plans to lift the region's economy, Labour leader David Shearer says.

Last year Labour, the Greens, New Zealand First and Mana launched a parliamentary inquiry into the condition of New Zealand's manufacturing sector and this month released a report that included a series of recommendations to get New Zealand's manufacturing sector growing again. The inquiry found that 40,000 manufacturing jobs had been lost since December 2008.

Statistic NZ's Household Labour Force Survey shows that in December 2008 there were 6600 manufacturing jobs in Northland, but that had dropped to 4700 by the end of March this year, a 28.7 per cent fall.

Mr Shearer said that was one of the largest drops in the country and something needed to be done to improve conditions for manufacturing in Northland.

He said to do that Labour would implement the recommendations from the inquiry report, including adopting a national procurement policy that favours Kiwi-made and ensures that New Zealand manufacturers enjoy the same advantages as their international competitors; research and development tax credits; a fairer and less volatile exchange rate through reforms to monetary policy; refocusing capital investment into the productive economy, rather than housing speculation and lowering structural costs such as electricity prices.

Mr Shearer said it was false economy for the Government or local bodies to give a contract to an overseas or out-of-town firm just on the basis of cost.

"It might be cheaper, but in the long term you end up paying much more. If the local firm gets it the money will be spent in this country, the tax on the earnings will be paid to the country and the flow-on effects will go into your local economy and not into an overseas one," he said.

"For every job a local contract crates directly, there are up to five other jobs created downstream. Also, jobs lost [by the contract going to an overseas firm] means possibly having to pay benefits to those who lose jobs. We will ensure the Government looks local before it buys overseas."

Improving conditions for manufacturing in the regions would also prevent people leaving to go to big cities or overseas to look for work, he said.

Northland Chamber of Commerce boss Tony Collins said it was hard to say exactly where the manufacturing job losses came from as there had been no major manufacturer closing down in the region during that time, unlike in other regions.

"Some of them may be from the marine industry that has had a bit of downturn in recent years, but I suspect it's a lot of small to medium enterprises that employ five to 15 people. For those people it may have been death by a thousand cuts," Mr Collins said.

A lot of work was done by organisations in the region to improve job opportunities, but it was correct to say giving council work to local companies was good for the local economy.

Mr Collins said while the recent Northland Events Centre construction job went to an Auckland firm millions also went to local sub contractors.

The full report can be viewed at

Northland manufacturing Jobs:

  • December 2008 - 6600

  • March 2013 - 4700

- Source - Statistics NZ

- Northern Advocate

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