Problems for Westport

Westport is a small town on the west coast of the South Island, 100km north of Greymouth. It has a population of about 4,000 people. It has been a coal mining town for about 150 years.

Last week, Solid Energy company announced 113 workers would lose their jobs at the Stockton mine, north of Westport. Last year, 184 people lost their jobs at the Stockton mine. The reason is the price of coal. For many years the price of coal was US$300 a tonne but now it is only US$84 a tonne. The company is losing an average of $2.1m a month.

What will happen to these workers? There are very few other job opportunities in Westport. To make matters worse, the cement company, which employs 100 workers, is planning to move to Oamaru in the future. Workers who lose their jobs could move to Christchurch to help with the rebuild after the earthquake; however, if they own a house in Westport it will be hard to sell it. Also it will be difficult to afford a house in Christchurch.

Some local people say that Westport is a dying town. The government stopped logging of native trees 15 years ago so the timber industry has reduced. Tourism is important however and could increase.

Shops and other businesses will be affected by job losses in the mine. Tranz Rail and Lyttelton port will also lose business because coal is transported by rail to Lyttelton where it is shipped to China or Japan.

Unfortunately, heavy rain and flooding last week on the West Coast did not help to lift people’s spirits.

The only good news is that the Stockton mine will not close so 246 people will still work at the mine.

Listen to June 8th 2014 to hear more about the Stockton mine.

Vocabulary

• afford (v) – to have enough money to buy something
• to make matters worse – idiom –a second bad thing
• logging – cut down trees
• native trees – e.g. rimu, totara. These trees take hundreds of years to grow
• to lift people’s spirits – idiom – to make people feel happier

Question

Many people feel that the government is spending so much money in Auckland and Christchurch but does not seem to care about small towns. What can the government do to help regional development?






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