Hillside Workshops Redevelopment

KiwiRail’s Hillside Workshops are set to undergo a major redevelopment following significant Government funding to build a new wagon assembly facility and to replace the mechanical workshop.

The Hillside story 

Hillside has long played an important role in Dunedin’s engineering sector.

Though there have been rail workshops on the site since 1875, the creation of Hillside in the 1920’s was a major step forward.

Like other new rail workshops built in Wellington’s Hutt Valley, it was a state-of-the-art facility considered to be among the most modern engineering plants in the country.

By 1946 around 1,200 people worked at this then bustling site.

Over the years a wide range of railway rolling stock have been built at Hillside, including steam and diesel locomotives, passenger carriages and rail wagons.

Well over 1,000 people worked at Hillside in the 1940’s, however by 2012, with aging buildings unfit for use, and dilapidated or broken machinery, the once proud site was a shadow of its former self. With fewer than 10 people working there, it came very close to closing for good.

Since then the workshops have ambled on, carrying out maintenance on KiwiRail’s South Island locos and undertaking a range of other short-term projects – including converting 130 existing container freight wagons to carry forestry logs.

Government Investment

The redevelopment of Hillside includes:

  • A new mechanical workshop where up to 20 locomotives, wagons or carriages can be worked on at a time
  • A new wagon assembly facility, where two wagons can be assembled a day. KiwiRail expects to assemble at least 1500 wagons over three years
  • New shared offices and workshops, allowing KiwiRail’s infrastructure staff to move to the site
  • A new traverser, heavy lift jacks, and electric shunt engines
  • A much more appealing frontage on Hillside Road
  • Once the work is complete more than 100 KiwiRail people will work from the site

Minister of Finance Grant Robertson visits Hillside Workshops in May 2021.

Minister Roberts 960 x 540


The revitalisation of Hillside will create jobs and new skills and have broader benefits for Dunedin. Building the new facility will support the local economy with around 250 construction jobs required and create business for local material supply companies.

KiwiRail will take on 45 staff for new roles in producing wagons, instead of importing them fully assembled. We are committed to ensuring at least 10 per cent of the new intake to our workforce are apprentices or trainees.

The new site expected to be operational by mid-late 2023 and when the work is complete more than 100 KiwiRail people will work from the site

These are all people living and spending in the local community which will benefit the city.

New mechanical workshop 960 x 540

Upcoming construction activities

First stage: Workshop demolition

In mid-2020 two unused buildings at the north-eastern end of the site were demolished. In September we expect to start preparing for the demolition of the main workshops and the small building (highlighted in the image below) to make way for the construction of the new mechanical workshop.

Demolition is expected to take around seven months. Deconstruction will start at the northern end of the workshop and work southwards to Hillside Road.

Towards the later stage of the demolition programme, the footpath and some on-street parking on Hillside Road will be temporarily closed for public safety, as the building is directly adjacent to the road.  We expect the work to be carried out during normal business hours but occasionally work may be undertaken during weekends and evenings.

The former fabrication shop and adjacent tinsmiths' shop are being demolished to make way for the new mechanical workshop.

Hillside flyer map showing buildings to be demolished
Asbestos management

Due to the age of the buildings, we tested for and have confirmed the presence of asbestos inside the workshop building. The demolition works are being carefully managed by a specialist contractor who will ensure all work is undertaken in line with relevant asbestos regulations and WorkSafe NZ guidelines and standards. This includes cleaning all asbestos from the buildings before demolition begins. The contaminated building materials will be removed and disposed of at an appropriate facility.

The workshop will be deconstructed progressively from the inside, with the external walls retained to provide an enclosed space while the steel framing is brought down. Continuous air testing will be undertaken to monitor for asbestos and KiwiRail will audit the contractor’s activities throughout the demolition programme.

Next stage: Site design and construction

Detailed design of the new workshop and adjacent buildings is being carried out. The schedule for its construction and further demolition of other buildings at Hillside is yet to be confirmed.

We are also progressing designs for new shared offices and workshops which will allow KiwiRail’s track maintenance and signals staff to move to the site.

Detailed design for the wagon assembly facility is at an early stage.  The new site expected to be operational by mid-late 2023.


More information and contact details

We’re mindful of how work may affect our Hillside neighbours.

We intend to provide information on this page to keep you informed about upcoming construction activities at Hillside and to let you know how we are planning to minimise the impact of our work on the surrounding area.

If you have any queries or concerns about our planned activities, please email: contactus@kiwirail.co.nz or phone: 0800 801070 extension 43042.