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Manufacturing must return if New Zealand is to survive

Image: Dunlops Upper Hutt

Chair of the National Maori Authority, Matthew Tukaki, has urged all political parties to come out with a policy that will see the return of a high end and high production manufacturing sector. Tukaki has said that “for decades now we have seen the manufacturing sector take a significant hit in favour of cheap imports and that has put our economy at risk”.

“We have seen the decline of the car and car parts manufacturing sector in the 1980’s and 90’s as well as the decline of producing everything from cables and wire to furniture. From steel to what has happening with Tiwai point we have become more reliant on the international supply chain to import what we need instead of producing it ourselves”. Tukaki said

“COVID19 has taught us a very important lesson that unless we re-tool and re-think our focus on manufacturing our economy and own domestic needs will continue to be under pressure. A report last year also showed just how much of an impact the decline of manufacturing had on small town and city New Zealand. The number of people employed in manufacturing between 1976 and 2013 declined from 25% of the workforce to just 10% and you just need to look at places such as Upper Hutt to see that with the closure of Dunlops. The number of people working in Tokoroa dropped by 44 per cent between 1976 and 2013, Greymouth by 7 per cent, Whanganui by 5 per cent and Oamaru by 2 per cent. Levin experienced no growth and Invercargill lifted just 1 per cent.” Tukaki said

“And the impacts on Maori have been significant. Maori traditionally held jobs in the blue collar sector that were rich in trades and apprenticeships and that’s what we must focus our energy on – job creation in the regions and small town New Zealand will fall off the back of a reinvigoration of the trades sector but more than that, by doing so we add to securing our domestic consumption needs.” Tukaki said

“Dovetailed to this is investing more into high value and high skills manufacturing industries from health products to technology and equipment – in these areas I would like to see more of our young people training and entering into apprenticeships where we know wages are high – and in doing so breaking the traditional makers that many of our people operate at the low to mid end of the economy.” Tukaki said

“And let’s face it – as a country we must ensure that we produce more of what we need right here and become less reliant on countries such as China feeding us with what we need. That includes producing things like our own pharmaceuticals – I would rather have spent $150 million on creating an industry here instead of having to buy medications we need from mainly US drug companies.” Tukaki said

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