As I’m writing this, I’m sitting at my desk while rain lashes the weatherboards. The window frames are creaking as a brutal gust crashes against the south side of the house.
There’s no way I’m going outside – unless it’s for a block of chocolate. Sugar is the best comfort on a day like this.
On most days I prefer Cadbury – I’ll grab Whittaker’s on the odd occasion – but can I, in good conscience, continue buying Cadbury? With Mondelez International, Cadbury’s American owner, confirming its plans to close up shop in Dunedin, I’m not sure I can.
You and I know the figures: the closure is going to put hundreds of people out of work and see millions of dollars disappear from the local economy. The closure is going to see the end of one of Dunedin’s landmarks.
The rationale, if you can call it that, is Mondelez can manufacture chocolate on the cheap in other countries. Cadbury’s history in Dunedin and its reputation for quality count for nothing when all Mondelez cares about is the bottom line.
In some ways this is a story of corporate greed, but in other ways it’s the story of this National Government. Remember Hillside, the workshops responsible for servicing the country’s rail locomotives? Well, the business was forced to close after the Government sent its contracts overseas. Ninety jobs were lost.
Even the Tiwai aluminium smelter, one of the foundation stones in the Southland economy, is lurching from year to year as the Government dithers over putting in place a regional economic development strategy to give certainty to industry, working people and the region. When I travel across the country, people working in factories and in industry are asking “are we next?”
The Government put its spin on this – “this is how the modern economy works and it’s out of our hands”, it’ll argue. But the devastating truth is there are 139,000 people out of work in New Zealand, 34,000 more than when National took office in 2008.
Yet the Government’s jobs strategy amounts to “become an Uber driver”. But not everyone wants to become an Uber driver or an IT specialist or whatever new-age job is doing the rounds.
The Government should be doing more to support industry in Dunedin rather than just shrugging its shoulders and waiting for the next cold wind to blow through the job market.