By Molly Houseman
Taieri Gorge workers marched through Dunedin streets to deliver the mayor a letter this morning.
Rail and Maritime Transport Union members and local politicians chanted as they made their way from the train station to the Municipal Chambers stairs, saying when the railway was “under attack” they would “stand up and fight back”.
People held signs, one saying “a future for Dunedin is a future with rail” and others passing by beeped their horns in support.
The protest was led by the union’s Otago branch secretary Dave Kearns, on behalf of the Keep Dunedin Rail Rolling Campaign, who said there was an “imminent” threat to the railway and their jobs, and that they needed to keep the pressure on.
Dunedin Railways Limited announced it would mothball its track and equipment in a bid to avoid closing entirely, following the impacts of Covid-19, but it would see about 51 people lose their jobs by the end of the month.
The letter delivered to the Dunedin City Council from the campaign expressed the workers “disappointment” that the board were going ahead with an “ill-thought out so-called mothballing scheme”.
“We call upon council to use its good offices to the limit of its power to enforce accountability on the board and management of Dunedin Rail Ltd (DRL) to the ultimate owners, the voters and ratepayers of Dunedin and to use every endeavour to ensure that at the very least DRL applies for the extension of the Government wage subsidy and rescinds the redundancy notices to its staff,” the letter said.
Taieri Gorge Ltd senior hostess Pat Tutty worked for the railway for about 30 years and said the gorge was the “bread and butter” of the railway.
But it was also a personal loss for her.
“It is magical … you do not stay in a job that long if you don’t love it.”
She believed the decision to mothball the rail, following Covid-19, was a “convenient excuse”.