Home > Dollars & Sense, Social Issues, The Body Politic > A lesson in Energy Economics

A lesson in Energy Economics

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This is the Treaty of Waitangi, signed by most tribes in New Zealand, and by the Representative of Her Majesty, Lieutenant-Governor, William Hobson,

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The full English text can be read here: Treaty of Waitangi.

The relevant part to the treaty, guaranteeing rights to land, forests, water, mountain, etc, is this bit, Article 2,

Article the second [Article 2]

Her Majesty the Queen of England confirms and guarantees to the Chiefs and Tribes of New Zealand and to the respective families and individuals thereof the full exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Lands and Estates Forests Fisheries and other properties which they may collectively or individually possess so long as it is their wish and desire to retain the same in their possession; but the Chiefs of the United Tribes and the individual Chiefs yield to Her Majesty the exclusive right of Preemption over such lands as the proprietors thereof may be disposed to alienate at such prices as may be agreed upon between the respective Proprietors and persons appointed by Her Majesty to treat with them in that behalf.

Seems fairly clear; what’s theirs is theirs and no nicking each others’ stuff.

Now, unfortunately, I have fellow New Zealanders who hold to the belief that the Treaty of Waitangi is “no longer relevant” or is “outdated”.

Interesting idea that; “no longer relevant”.

Firstly, the Treaty has no “expiry date” or “statute of limitations”. Nothing in the  small print  states that the Treaty is valid for only X number of years.

Secondly, imagine trying to tell our American cuzzies that their Declaration of Independence – signed in 1776AD, and therefore some 64 years older than our own Treaty – is “no longer relevant” or  “outdated”? They’d have half their US Marines camped outside your front door – and not in a happy way, either.

And of course, there is the Magna Carta, signed in 1215AD, and which is the basis of much of our modern law.  If the Magna Carta is “no longer relevant” or  “outdated” then we are in serious trouble, as the state would have arbitrary powers of detention and imprisonment without right of trial, and we would lose other legal protections from State abuse.

And then there are the Ten Commandments, several thousand years old, which state the most basic laws of a civilised society; no killing, no stealing, no false accusations, etc.

Few people would try to assert that these basic laws are “no longer relevant” or  “outdated”?

Time does not extinguish rights.

Those who object to the principles of the Treaty do so out of fear and misconceptions (and sometimes out of downright racist hostility) than any notions of fairness.

The Treaty is the basis upon which our ancestors agreed to live together and to respect each other. We should respect that agreement and use it in the spirit in which it was signed.

Otherwise we disrespect our forebears (on all sides) and do ourselves a dishonour in the  process.

Moving forward and onward…

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II

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In replying to Maori claims of water rights, Dear Leader John Key has stated earnestly that “no one owns the water”.

Until now,  Maori have made no claims over water in terms of this country’s energy production. With Meridian, Mighty River Power, and Genesis Energy under collective  state ownership, it could equally be said that “no one owned the power companies – they belonged to us all.

If, until now, we all benefitted from collective ownership of power companies, then, equally the source of that power was in collective ownership. Now National is attempting to privatise 49% of  Meridian, Mighty River Power, and Genesis Energy – effectively changing the rules.

The concept of private ownership is now contemplated for up-till-now collectively-owned assets. So what about the source of that power which will now benefit a small group who will own 49%?

Can the source of hydro power be owned, especially when it produces profits?

Let’s test that idea, shall we?

Simple question: who owns the following resources?

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Oil. Natural  gas. Coal. Uranium. None of this stuff  is free. Someone owns the ground or the process used to extract it.  There is a concept of private ownership  over these energy sources that can be quantified, measured, controlled,  priced, and sold.

Until Pakeha arrived on these fair shores as the second wave of  “boat people” – refugees from a class-stratified society – Maori had no concept of private ownership. Property was not owned by individuals. Iwi and hapu held collective kawanatanga over their lands, waters, forests, hills, seashores, etc.

Once Pakeha arrived, the notion of private ownership and Land Titles were introduced to Maori.

Some Pakeha might object – but water is sacred!

So is land. God knows enough of our young men have gone off to war to defend our nation; our people; our lands, from foreign domination, in two World Wars.

Some Pakeha would object – but water is ephemeral!

So are radio/television  frequencies. But that hasn’t stopped the government to leasing/selling those to private companies. (Try broadcasting on the same wavelength as TVNZ or TV3, and see what the reaction from those companies and the State would be.)

This is a hydro power station,

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Powered by this stuff,

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Water  generates the turbines which produces the power that is on-sold to consumers.

So how does water differ from oil, gas, coal, and uranium?

Private ownership?  It suited us Pakeha when it was used to our benefit to “acquire” land from Maori.

Maori learnt that lesson well and the shoe is now on the other foot.

If Pakeha are going to flog of 49% of  assets that, up till now, no one owned and collectively benefitted us all, then by the gods, Maori can – and should – apply precisely the same principle.

Welcome to the world of capitalism – our ‘gift’ to Maori

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III

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Pakeha schizophrenia over private ownership was nowhere better summed up than on TVNZ’s Q+A, on 16 September, when Shane Taurima interviewed Dear Leader John Key on this issue,

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In a stunning act of conversion to social democratic principles, John Key equated the collective ownership of water with oil and gas,

… So if you accept that viewpoint, then I think you have to accept that elements like water and wind and the sun and air and fire and all these things, and the sea, along with natural resources like oil and gas, are there for the national interest of everyone. They’re there for the benefit of all New Zealanders, not one particular group over another. “

See: TVNZ Q+A Interview with Prime Minister John Key

Really?!?!

JohnKey is telling us that, ” natural resources like oil and gas, are there for the national interest of everyone. They’re there for the benefit of all New Zealanders, not one particular group over another “?!?

Since when did National or Labour nationalise the oil and gas industry???

This little piece of news-trivia slipped by me, that’s for sure. (Must’ve been announced on the other TV channel when we wasted two minutes watching ‘The Ridges‘.)

It’s pure bullshit of course. John Key is spinning porkies when he’s suggesting that the oil and gas industry is ” there for the national interest of everyone “. These resources belong to various corporations – not ”  for the benefit of all New Zealanders “.

In fact, the last time New Zealand held any State ownership in any aspect of the oil and gas industry was  with Petrocorp and Maui gas – both  privatised, respectively, in 1988 and 1990.

See: Treasury – Income from State Asset Sales

John Key’s assertion that the oil and gas industry is ” there for the national interest of everyone ” is either delusional (spending too much time with John Banks?) or a clumsy fairytale to try to woo New Zealanders into a cosy, cotton-wool, fantasy world.

This blogger would welcome and support National nationalising all oil and gas production in this country, ”  for the benefit of all New Zealanders “.

The fact is that Dear Leader blew it.

Not only was his paradigm absurdly false – but it actually shored up the legitamacy of Maori claims over water rights.

If private ownership can be conferred over this country’s oil and gas resources, for the private benefit of shareholders, then John Key needs to explain – in far more truthful terms this time – why water is different.

This blogger  believes that so far he has made a complete hash of things.

More importantly, will a Court take a similar view?

My money is on Maori winning this one.

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IV

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An email sent to Dear Leader,

Date: Monday, 17 September 2012 12:11 AM
From: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Reply-To: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@yahoo.com>
Subject: Nationalisation of oil and gas resources
To: John Key <john.key@parliament.govt.nz>
Cc: David Shearer <david.shearer@parliament.govt.nz>,
    Russel Norman <Russel.Norman@parliament.govt.nz>,
    Metiria Turei <metiria.turei@parliament.govt.nz>,
    Winston Peters <winston.peters@parliament.govt.nz>

Kia Ora Mr Key,
 
On 16 September, you stated on TVNZ’s Q+A the following statement,
” … So if you accept that viewpoint, then I think you have to accept that elements like water and wind and the sun and air and fire and all these things, and the sea, along with natural resources like oil and gas, are there for the national interest of everyone. They’re there for the benefit of all New Zealanders, not one particular group over another. “
 

Source:  http://tvnz.co.nz/q-and-a-news/interview-prime-minister-john-key-5085886

I missed the occassion when our oil and gas industries were nationalised, so that profits would remain in New Zealand,  “for the benefit of all New Zealanders, not one particular group over another”.

This is an excellent state of affairs and I welcome your government’s conversion to social democracy whereby  our ”  natural resources like oil and gas, are there for the national interest of everyone “.

I take it as a given then, that you have not only abandoned your asset sales programme, but will be re-nationalising Contact Energy.

In which case, it is a truism that “no one owns the oil and gas” in the ground, and subsequently these resources belong to all New Zealanders collectively.

I may have to reconsider my vote, come 2014, as I wish to support the newly discovered  social-democratic principles shown by your Party.

With regards,
-Frank Macskasy
Blogger

See: http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/a-lesson-in-energy-economics/

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