Nelson's Port. Photo: Tracy Neal / RNZ.

Marine company pleads for help

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A Nelson marine engineering business says it will be forced to shed 40 per cent of its workforce if the Government does not allow vessels to travel to New Zealand for urgent repairs.

Aimex has already laid off 10 per cent of its 100-strong workforce and is looking at further job cuts while its application to various ministries for help goes unanswered.

It comes as other local companies in the sector write to the Government pleading with them to help.

Aimex says that it may have cut up to 40 percent of its staff.

General manager Simon Lavery says they have requested that the vessel, Captain Vincent Gann and its workers, be allowed to come from American Samoa, be quarantined and, if necessary, tested for Covid-19 so they can undertake repair work.

“This is regular business for us. It’s what we depend on. It’s a real problem.”

To allow that to happen the Ministry of Primary Industries would have to designate the workers on the ship as ‘essential’.

Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford would then approve or deny the request.


Aimex general manager Simon Lavery says it feels like the Government is playing ‘pass the parcel’. Photo: Supplied.
Aimex general manager Simon Lavery says it feels like the Government is playing ‘pass the parcel’. Photo: Supplied.

However, Simon says that it is not just the Captain Vincent Gann, that would be coming from American Samoa, but others like it.

American Samoa does not have any Covid-19 cases and since Monday New Zealand has also been Covid-19 free.

It was not clear whether moving to Level 1 would have an impact on the Government’s decision.

Simon says the ship represents hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue and the two others would bring further millions to the region.

It also has a flow on effect for other companies in Nelson.

Sealord, Talley’s, Aroma Aquaculture, Wakatu and others have all written letters asking for the Government to step in.

“We have been asking for a week and we are still not getting any headway,” says Simon.

He says the company will not have a choice but to lay off staff if a decision cannot be made.

“We need to survive if we can. We don’t want [to make redundancies]. Right now, this economy needs this type for work. We are a bit frustrated as to why the Government would not want to allow it.”
Simon says that it comes on top of other regional blows like Air New Zealand pulling its maintenance hub out of Nelson.

“We would hang on to these men until the vessel gets here, but if there is no light how long can you hang on for?”

Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford says that all applications for border exemptions for Other Essential Workers to enter New Zealand are considered on a case-by-case basis and must meet a high threshold.

He says there is a company going through the process of applying for a border exemption with the Ministry of Primary Industries.

“If and when that application is progressed, I will receive a briefing to consider border exemptions for the crew aboard this vessel.”

However, Simon says it feels like “pass the parcel”.

“No one seems like they want to own this problem and solve this problem.”