Opinion: Dunedin's death by chocolate

Dunedin, New Zealand - November 16, 2014: Cadbury chocolate factory, Dunedin, Otago Region Southern island New Zealand.

My dad was the first person I called when I heard Cadbury was closing.

A born and bred Dunedin boy, the factory had been part of his upbringing.

He's one of five boys born in very quick succession - the Lynch mob. Irish Catholics. My nana was raising five boys under five while grandad went off to work at Briscoes.

When those under fives grew into teenagers they became five very hungry mouths - so it was back into the workforce for nana. And so began her career at Cadbury.

Dad remembers "lots of scrap chocolate" coming home with Nana.

Five hungry young mouths to feed
Five hungry young mouths to feed

One of my uncles and his partner went on to work there as well. I remember lots of scrap chocolate coming our way too. Hazelnut roses galore.

Nana stayed at Cadbury for 15 years until she eventually retired. But her time there stayed with her until she died in 2012.

That's because of the friends she made there. She met her best friend Eleanor there - Eleanor was there right till the end.

You see Cadbury isn't just a factory. It's a part of Dunedin. There are hundreds of people with stories just like my family's.

So, yes, the closure of this factory hurts Dunedin, but not just because of the memories. More than 350 people are employed in that factory today - it's the largest private employer in Dunedin.

And that's only direct employees - it doesn't take into account the transport and logistics team needed to get that chocolate outta there. It doesn't take into account the engineers that keep the equipment running, It doesn't take into account the plumbers, the electricians, the electricity suppliers for that matter.

And then there's the effect on the wider economy - child carers, retailers, hospitality.

Make no mistake this is a massive blow to Dunedin.

Jenna's grandparents spent years working in Dunedin factories
Jenna's grandparents spent years working in Dunedin factories

But Cadbury isn't the only blow. This is a city built on factory work. Think Fisher and Paykel, Mainland cheese, woolen mills, railway workshops - grandparents, aunts and uncles all worked at them too - but those industries have all bowed out already.

So now this is a regional economy in wind down mode.

The whole town basically relies on the University and even then it can't really rely on it.

Take the Dentist's School - Dunedin's contractors could've really done with that work but the Uni chose Leigh's Cockram JV - a joint venture between Christchurch and Australian based companies. The University of Otago says it's because they've got a specialisation in health related projects.

But if Dunedin businesses can't get a look in on those big projects, the city is going to become just another regional town.

There's a famous song down in the South that accompanies the boys in blue and gold out onto the rugby field.

It goes: "I'm a southern man, I'm southern bred, I've got the south in my blood and I'm gonna be here till I'm damned well dead."

The only problem is, those southern men might not be able to stay. The city might die before them.