The Prime Minister says he understands the distress of workers who are likely to lose their jobs at Timaru's port, but says there is little the Government can do.
The port company has told workers stevedoring is expected to finish on 17 September, with 50 of the port's 74 jobs likely to be lost.
Some of the workers facing redundancy booed and jeered John Key during his visit to Timaru on Friday.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Key said port redundancies are a difficult issue for the Government.
"The port is owned locally and the clients are not government, so we're really a bystander in some part of this."
Mr Key says the port has been very important for Timaru, as it has helped other industries develop and grow there.