Ashburton Guardian, Canterbury by Susan Sandys 19 May 2017
Government ministers must hold the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) to account, says Labour in the wake of Silver Fern Farms’ proposal to close its Fairton plant.
The opposition party’s regional development spokesman Stuart Nash was among politicians weighing in on the threatened closure.
Nash was referring to the OIO’s recommendation last year approving Shanghai Maling’s purchase of half of Silver Fern Farms.
“The Government said the sale would add value, and Shanghai Maling promised as much in its OIO application, but the company is breaking promises and closing down Fairton before the ink is even dry on the contract,” Nash said.
“Ministers must hold the OIO to account and demand they ensure this investor meets its promises,” he said.
New Zealand First was also quick to condemn the announcement.
Leader Winston Peters said Silver Fern Farms managers were “cowardly” for last year denying closure was a prospect, and the announcement rammed home the price of the meat processing industry slipping into foreign control.
But Labour’s outcry earned the accusation of “crocodile tears” from Rangitata candidate for National, Andrew Falloon.
“Two years ago the Labour Party endorsed a meat industry proposal that specified the closure of Fairton as one of the key recommendations, so it’s bit rich to now try and say they oppose it, it’s crocodile tears from the Labour Party,” Falloon said.
Falloon and incumbent National MP for Rangitata Jo Goodhew said the decision had not come as a huge surprise due to declining sheep numbers. While it was a very tough day for the workers and they felt for affected staff, they were heartened by positions available at Pareora and Belfast works, and a strong economy and historic low unemployment would help ensure there were other jobs available.
In addition Goodhew said social sector agencies would be lining up to make themselves available.
Labour’s Rangitata candidate Jo Luxton backed up Nash’s call, and was also thinking about getting support into place for workers.
“This is a massive blow for Ashburton,” Luxton said.
A lot of the workers had little in the way of assets to fall back on, and community support would be important.
She had contacted the manager of Work and Income requesting a meeting to see what the organisation’s support might look like.