New Zealand business group carps buying ferry from Bangladesh

There is mounting criticism of the New Zealand Government for getting the 60-seat boat built cheaply in Bangladesh instead of the country. A business group says the process for buying a new ferry from Bangladesh with aid money was flawed from the beginning.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) of New Zealand commissioned the aid-funded ferry for $8 million to replace a vessel linking the New Zealandterritory of Tokelau to Samoa with fortnightly sailings.

FerryKim Campbell, chief executive of the Northern Employers and Manufacturers Association, believes the boat-building industry in New Zealand has not been treated fairly, reports Radio New Zealand.

“If the Government right from the beginning had said, ‘Look, we’re going to give this to the cheapest, it’s going to be a race to the bottom, it’s going to be less than $10 million’ – I think pretty much everybody in New Zealand would’ve rolled up their quills and pens and gone home and done something else.

“But I understand the industry up and down New Zealand spent a lot of time and money trying to participate in a process that was clearly flawed from the beginning.”

The Marine Industry Association said the ferry would have cost $14 million to $15 million to build in New Zealand. Director Peter Busfield said the Government did not consider the country’s possible economic gain by having it made locally.

Workers in Bangladesh are paid very little, he said, and not enough is known about the boat-building industry there to be sure that the work will be up to standard.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said an overseas bid to build the ferry was almost three times cheaper than anything in New Zealand. He told Radio New Zealand’s Summer Report programme on Tuesday that the lowest New Zealand bid was about $23 million.

Mr Joyce said it would be up to the MFAT to make sure there was no cost blow-out.