Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says a major redevelopment of Hillside Workshop, set to begin later this year, will be a real boon for Dunedin.
The Government earlier this month reaffirmed its commitment to the South Dunedin facility owned by KiwiRail as part of its 10-year rail plan. In the Budget last week, it announced that Hillside would receive $85 million for new facilities to assemble about 1500 wagons.
Speaking to reporters today, Ardern said the investment would be a real boon for the city.
"Not only do we have the hospital rebuild, now we have this significant project.
"Here we'll have assembly occurring at Hillside, that creates opportunities to ensure that we have the ongoing staff skilled and trained to deal with the maintenance issues that of course arise by having a strong network," she said.
"We're standing here on a site that's been part of Dunedin and part of the rail network for over 100 years, and it's not often that something that's such a strong part of your history is a strong part of your future as well - but that's the story of rail.''
KiwiRail chief executive Greg Miller said KiwiRail's role was to do a great job in assembling 1500 wagons by 2026, and then go back to the Government to talk through future work.
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said rail was one of the best industries to invest in, because it created jobs and dealt with climate change issues.
Fifty-five people were currently employed at Hillside.
Transport Minister Michael Wood said earlier this month about 445 jobs would be created between Hillside and a new South Island Mechanical Maintenance Hub in Christchurch. The Hillside investment alone would support up to 150 construction jobs and up to 45 operational KiwiRail jobs, including apprenticeships.
Ms Ardern was today accompanied by Mr Robertson, and Dunedin MPs Ingrid Leary and Dr David Clark, who is the State Owned Enterprises Minister.
Hillside will be truly modernised - KiwiRail
KiwiRail today provided details of the redevelopment and a video of an animated video of the new Hillside site.
Group Chief Executive Greg Miller today confirmed that the redevelopment would go ahead this year, following "significant investment" from the Government: last week's announced $85 million, as well as nearly $20 million allocated previously through the Provincial Growth Fund to re-make the adjacent mechanical workshop at Hillside.
"These Government investments, together with funding from KiwiRail, will see Hillside revitalised over the next few years - creating jobs, new skills, and guaranteeing the future of the historic Dunedin site," Miller said.
"The investment is supporting the local economy with 250 construction jobs needed for the rebuild. Wagon assembly itself means KiwiRail will take on 45 staff for new roles in producing wagons, instead of importing them fully assembled.
"KiwiRail is also committed to ensuring at least 10 percent of our new intake to our workforce are apprentices or trainees. Bringing them together in our new facilities at Hillside will create a strong culture of learning and wider opportunities for development."
Miller believed the investment would "truly modernise Hillside".
"It won't be a 19th Century rail plant any longer - it will be a 21st Century one with new equipment, layout and improved work processes that will make Hillside a safer, more efficient and hospitable work environment for our people."
The redevelopment of Hillside includes:
• A new mechanical workshop where up to 20 locomotives or wagons can be worked on at a time
• A new wagon assembly facility, where two wagons can be assembled a day. KiwiRail expects to assemble at least 1500 wagons over three years
• New shared offices and workshops, allowing KiwiRail's track maintenance and signals staff to move to the site
• A new traverser, heavy lift cranes and jacks, and electric shunt engines
• A much more appealing frontage on Hillside Road, with a memorial walk to recognise the history of rail at the site and in Dunedin
• Staged demolition will begin this year, with the new site expected to be operational by mid-late 2023
• Once the work is complete more than 100 KiwiRail people will work from the site