Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Solid Energy’

392,000 New Zealanders send a clear message to John Key – Part Tahi

12 March 2013 3 comments

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NZ, Wellington, 12 March 2013 – Another beautiful sunny day with blue skies  (apologies to farmers) was a perfect setting this afternoon in Wellington, when a couple of hundred marchers arrived on Parliament’s grounds, bearing 68 boxes, containing 392,000 signatures.

The referendum requires 304,000 valid signatures to precipitate a nationwide referendum. The 392,000 signatures gives a 22% ‘buffer’ against invalid signatures; people not on the electoral roll; duplicate signatures; and malicious attempts to undermine the petition.

There was a small number of people on Parliament’s grounds  awaiting the march, amongst them tino rangatiratanga activists, Brenda and Fran,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  12 March 2013 - presentation of anti-asset sales petition - parliament - referendum

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At about 1pm, marchers arrived, bearing the boxes that contained a priceless treasure – signatures of 392,000 New Zealanders. Media flocked around them. This was an historical event,

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They walked onto Parliament’s grounds to cheers and applause of those waiting,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  12 March 2013 - presentation of anti-asset sales petition - parliament - referendum

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On the steps to Parliament, more media and elected representatives from Opposition Parties were waiting. (Curiously, none from National, ACT, or United Future were in attendance. Their ‘invites’ must’ve been lost in the post?)

Politicians clapped as the marchers approached. Men, women, young, old, Maori, Pakeha, these were New Zealanders who believed that the People’s Assets were not to be stripped and flogged off by a handful of politicians,

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Sixty eight marchers proudly carried a prized box each,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  12 March 2013 - presentation of anti-asset sales petition - parliament - referendum

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The boxes were carefully passed over a security barricade, to be stacked on the Parliamentary forecourt,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  12 March 2013 - presentation of anti-asset sales petition - parliament - referendum

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Meanwwhile, the crowd watched, as the stacking of boxes progressed,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  12 March 2013 - presentation of anti-asset sales petition - parliament - referendum

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The leadership of the Green and Labour Parties,  with Brendan Horan (far left, standing beside Metiria Turei); former AUSA President, Arena Williams (standing beside David Shearer); Grey Power National President, Mr Roy Reid; Annette King; and (far right – no slur intended, Mr Conway) CTU Economist and Director of Policy, Peter Conway .

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  12 March 2013 - presentation of anti-asset sales petition - parliament - referendum

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Mana Party leader, Hone Harawira, joined the Party leaders shortly afterward (NZ First lreader, Winston Peters was standing off-camera, to the left),

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  12 March 2013 - presentation of anti-asset sales petition - parliament - referendum

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NZ First leader, Winston Peters, being interviewed by a MSM journalist,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  12 March 2013 - presentation of anti-asset sales petition - parliament - referendum

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A panoramic view of part of the assembled crowd,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  12 March 2013 - presentation of anti-asset sales petition - parliament - referendum

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Green MP, Jan Logie; NZ First leader, Winston Peters, and NZ First MP, Andrew Williams, at the stacked petition boxes. At this point, the  invited guest-speakers were preparing themselves – and  their notes – to address the crowd and media,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  12 March 2013 - presentation of anti-asset sales petition - parliament - referendum

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With a  unique style and flair she has become reknowned for, Moana Maniapoto Jackson welcomed people to today’s presentation of the petition,

“We are celebrating people power…”

Coaching the crowd, to chime in with “Ohhhh yeahhhh” as the chorus, Ms Maniapoto Jackson launched into a short protest-style song. Her powerful voice belted out the words, making her microphone and speakers practically redundant, as she filled Parliament with her lyrical sounds,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  12 March 2013 - presentation of anti-asset sales petition - parliament - referendum

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“Hey, hey Mr John Key,

You say you’ve the mandate
We’re here to help,
it’s not too late,
People here are standing strong
a hundred thousand – can’t be wrong
We’re here to help you get back on track,
Let’s stop the sales,
Let’s pull it back.

Crowd’s chorus, Ohhhhh Yeahhhhh!

All together now!

OHHHHH YEAHHHH!”

Ms Maniapoto Jackson then welcomed the first of “a long line of luminaries, that are positively glowing with energy and excitement as we deliver to the government a very strong call from New Zealanders.”

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To be continued at: 392,000 New Zealanders send a clear message to John Key – Part Rua

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Additional

Radio NZ: Petitioners confident of asset sale referendum

Dominion Post: Government to ignore asset sales referendum

NZ Herald: Asset sales petition arrives at Parliament

TV3: PHOTOS: Asset sales petition presented

TVNZ: Petition against SOE sales delivered to Parliament

Newstalk ZB: Opposition MPs greet anti-asset sales petition

Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  • Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  • At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  • Acknowledgement of source is requested.

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A Clear Warning to Investors in SOEs…

11 March 2013 12 comments

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soe powercos

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The recent financial crisis and near-collapse of Solid Energy – one of the five, state owned enterprises planned for partial-privatisation – should serve as a warning for those investor-vultures circling to buy shares in any of the SOEs.

In fact, recent history regarding Air New Zealand, Kiwiwail, and (non-privatised) BNZ in 1991,  are indicators that privatisation of state assets is not a guaranteed roadmap to wealth,

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The Air New Zealand crash

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It is noteworthy that one of the cause of Air New Zealand’s collapse was it’s foolhardy buy-out of Australian airline, Ansett,

First, the decision by Air New Zealand to pay dividends and second, the decision to buy the second half of Ansett. Both moves turned out to be considerably more beneficial to the interests of Brierleys than those of Air New Zealand.

Take the Ansett purchase. In early 1999, Cushing announced that Air New Zealand was vetoing Singapore Airline’s bid to buy News Corp’s 50% of Ansett Holdings (Air New Zealand had held the other 50% of Ansett since September 1996). Instead, it decided to pay News Corp $A580 million and get 100% control.

It’s most likely true that Air New Zealand paid too much for the stake and that directors had too little information about Ansett’s financial and engineering state. These are well-aired opinions, but are secondary to the main question that should be asked: Why did Air New Zealand buy the second half of Ansett at all? It’s not just that it was hopelessly out of its depth buying an airline twice its size. It’s just hard to see any benefits – to Air New Zealand, that is.

Source: IBID

On top of that were big dividend demands from one of Air Zealand’s major shareholders, Brierley’s,

The at times cash-strapped investment company held between 30% and 47% of shares over the period so, based on the total dividend of $765 million, Brierley reaped an estimated $250 million to $380 million from the airline. And Air New Zealand’s decision to buy the second half of Ansett, cutting Singapore Airlines out of the deal, contributed to Brierleys being able to do its own deal with Singapore.

In April last year, two months after Air New Zealand bought Ansett, Brierleys sold Singapore Airlines all its Air New Zealand “B” shares for $285 million, or $3 a share. It was arguably the last exit option for Brierleys from these shares, and, apart from a spike at the end of last year, Air New Zealand shares have largely tracked downwards ever since – they were trading around 30 cents as Unlimited went to press.

Source: IBID

In other words, Air New Zealand had over-extended in unwise investments (as has Solid Energy), and was bled dry by rapacious demands for dividends (as did Faye Richwhite in NZ Rail in the early 1990s).

How does this relate to the upcoming partial-sale of Mighty River Power?

Recent revelations that Mighty River Power has shaky investments on Chile, should cause potential investors to pause for thought,

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Key struggles to push Chilean investments

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According to the TV3 story above, “Mighty River Power has spent $250 million at the geothermal plant in southern Chile, but has just written off $89 million as the investments struggle“.

To which Key responded casually,

There is always risk.”

Dear Leader  seems somewhat blase about investors’ risks? Of course he is. It’s not his money.

The Crown Ownership Monitoring Unit (COMU) reported,

Impairments

During the period, the Company recognised $91.4 million of impairments principally reflecting its investment in the GeoGlobal Partners I Fund (GGE Fund), and its greenfield explorations for potential developments in Chile and Germany.

This impairment followed higher than expected costs at the Tolhuaca project in Chile due to the worst winter in 40 years adversely affecting drilling performance and only one of the two wells having proven production capacity. The value of GGE’s investment at Weiheim in Germany, has been impacted by increased costs due to required changes in the drilling location following the 3D seismic surveys and delays from environmental court challenges which have been resolved post balance date.

The GGE Fund had not raised capital from other investors by the end of the 2012 and Mighty River Power made the decision not to invest further capital into the existing structure. Overall, the impairment charge of $88.9 million for the German and Tolhuaca assets and the management company of GGE LLC leaves a residual book value of $91.8 million.

Source: Mighty River Power LtdResults for Announcement to the Market

On top of  Mighty River Power’s dodgy investment in Chile, New Zealand is now experiencing what is being called the worst drought in seven decades  (see:  North Island’s worst drought in 70 years). As Climate scientist Jim Salinger said about New Zealand’s current weather patterns continuing, and becoming  similar to the Mediterranean,

What it means is that if it just doesn’t rain for at least four months of the year, it means you have to bring in your water from elsewhere.”

Source: IBID

As all investors should bear in mind; most of our power generation is generated from  hydro stations. Mighty River Power, especially, derives most of its electricity from eight  hydro-electric stations on the Waikato River.

Mighty River Power CEO, Doug Heffernan has given a clear warning,

Following the lower than average inflows into the Waikato catchment during the last quarter [to December 31], Mighty River ended the half year at just 69 per cent of historical average [hydro storage].”

And Equity analyst Phillip Anderson of Devon Funds stated,

The same period last year they got really strong inflows, and this is the exact opposite . . .

In the second half of this reporting year they’re going to have to buy a lot more electricity to feed their customers, either on the spot market at a lot higher cost or use their [Southdown] gas plant.

We expect the second half of this year is going to be a lot tougher for them, they should get their margins squeezed if that all plays out.”

Source: Parched Waikato could hit Mighty River Power

The equation is blindingly simple,

Less rain = less water = less electricity generation

The question that begs to be asked is; where does the risk of investing in SOEs fall – private investors, or the State?

The answer I submit to the reader is, that like Air New Zealand, it will be private investors who bear the brunt of all risk. The State will simply pick up the pieces,  buying up shares at bargain basement prices, should anything go wrong.

Electricity generators like Mighty River Power will simply never be allowed to fail. Had the Labour government in 2001 allowed Air New Zealand to collapse, the fall-out to the rest of the reconomy would have been too horrendous to contemplate, and flow-on effects to other businesses (eg; exporters and tourism) and the economy would have been worse than any bail-out.

But any bailout will involve a massive loss for investors, as their share-value plummets. Again, Air New Zealand was an example to us all.

As the impact of climate change creates more uncertainly for our state power companies, investors need to think carefully before committing one single dollar toward buying shares,

Do I really want to bear all the risk?

Those who lost out on their investments in Air New Zealand in the 1990s will probably answer,

No.

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References

The Air New Zealand crash (1 November 2001)

A history of bailouts (7 April 2011)

Foreigners important for SOE sell-downs: Treasury (30 June 2011)

No law stopping foreign investors (16 Dec 2011)

Parched Waikato could hit Mighty River Power (22 Feb 2013)

Mighty River Power shares float mid-May (4 March 2013)

Taking the plunge in Mighty River (9 March 2013)

Key struggles to push Chilean investments (9 March 2013)

North Island’s worst drought in 70 years (10 March 2013)

Other blogs

Seemorerocks: An Appeal for a New Zealand Risk Assessment

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Dear Leader Key blames everyone else for Solid Energy’s financial crisis (Part Rua)

9 March 2013 8 comments

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national blighted hoarding 12 it's all labour's fault

Acknowledgement

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Continued from: Dear Leader Key blames everyone else for Solid Energy’s financial crisis

Opposition Party members of the Commerce Select Committee are demanding that  ex-CEO, Don Elder appear before the Select Committee to answer questions what went wrong at Solid Energy.

With unanswered questions about Solid Energy’s financial crisis; a murky history leading up to current events; big bonuses paid out as the company’s accounts were sinking into the red; and revelations that Don Elder is still recieving his  $1.3 million annual salary  – whilst working from home “serving out his notice” – pressure is mounting on National.

Solid Energy went from a multi-billion dollar company to being heavily indebited to $389 million.

How did this happen?

Did ministerial shareholders Bill English and Tony Ryall not notice?

Were they not receiving reports from Solid Energy’s Board of Directors?

Were no rumours or conversations floating around?

How does one keep a secret like that in a small country like New Zealand? (In which case  should Solid Energy take over our country’s security, from the GCSB and SIS?)

Why were we paying Don Elder for ($1.3 million p.a., plus bonuses no doubt) if not to be held to account?

On 8 March, Key was reported as saying,

“If he wants to go [to the Select Committee hearings] and they want him to go he is not going to get any opposition from my office.”

Source

And SOE Minister chipped in with this,

“It’s a matter for the Commerce Select Committee, Solid Energy and Dr Elder whether or not Dr Elder attends, but I don’t have a problem either way.”

IBID

Good. Because the public – who own Solid Energy – deserve answers. Thus far all we’ve had is the usual finger-pointing by National, with childishly pathetic  attempts to blame Labour for Solid Energy’s woes. As if Labour was still in government and the 2008 and 2011 general elections never happened.

This statement from Key, on 26 February 2013, simply doesn’t wash,

“They  [Labour] can’t wash their hands of the fact that from 2003 on, they were intimately involved with the plans that that company had.

The argument that somehow we would have gone in, in 2009 when the company was performing well, its results were good, the valuation of the company was going up, and just gone and sacked the board on day one is a bit fanciful.

Maybe we should have re-tested those [Labour-approved] initiatives but actually we gave [Labour] the benefit of the doubt that they might get one thing right.”

Source

“2003”?

That was ten years ago!  What has National been doing in the meantime?

As far back as September 2011, the Nats were abundantly aware that Solid Energy was embarking on expansion plans,

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Solid Energy starts work at Mataura Briquette Plant

Friday, 9 September 2011, 2:57 pm
Press Release: Solid Energy NZ

9 September 2011

Solid Energy marks the start of work at its Mataura Briquette Plant

The Hon Bill English, MP for Clutha-Southland and Minister of Finance, today marked the official start of work at Solid Energy’s Mataura Briquette Plant, by “turning the first sod” at a small event on site with neighbours, local authorities, and other guests.

The $25 million Mataura briquette plant is planned to start production by June 2012. It will produce up to 90,000 tonnes a year of low-moisture and higher-energy briquettes from about 150,000 tonnes of lignite mined from Solid Energy’s New Vale Opencast Mine and trucked to the Craig Road site. The plant will use technology developed in the USA by GTL Energy.

Source

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Here’s the photographic evidence, from National’s own ‘Flickr’ account, same date, 9 September 2011 – that’s Finance Minister Bill English, “turning the first sod of earth” for Solid Energy’s  Mataura Briquette Plant  in Southland. That plant was part of their expansion plans,

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solid-energy-chief-executive-don-elder-and-hon-bill-english-at-mataura-9-sept-2011

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Only three months earlier, in June 2011, Key himself was supporting Solid Energy’s explansion plans,

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national business review - nbr - Key supports Solid Energy's lignite plans

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Note Key’s comment in the above article in the National Business Review (hardly a leftist rag),

At the moment companies like Solid Energy are growth companies and we want them to expand in areas like lignite conversion.”

So for Dear Leader to blame Labour is not only disingenuous – it is cowardly.

It shows the entire country that the man who is supposedly or Prime Minister hasn’t got the balls to take it on the chin and admit that he and his Party f****d up. Big time.

Even the editorial from the Dominion Post said, with unconcealed exasperation on 2 March 2013,

There are always excuses when a company starts to fail. John Key’s explanation for the trouble at Solid Energy, however – he blamed the Labour government – was pitiful.

It was Trevor Mallard’s fault, apparently, for encouraging SOEs to spread their wings and fly. That was in 2007 or 2008.

This won’t do, and not just because Mr Key’s Government has been in power for more than four years. His argument also contradicts itself. A Labour government was seemingly omnipotent and could have its way with the state-owned coal company. But National had no such power.

The Government certainly said no when Solid Energy asked for a billion dollars to turn itself into a super-company along the lines of Petrobras, the Brazilian giant. Mr Key says it had grave doubts about the company’s expansion plans. His political opponents point out that he and Bill English had publicly backed Solid Energy’s big plans for lignite conversion and briquetting.

Source

This blogger welcomes Don Elder fronting up to the Commerce Select Committee.  However, that is simply not sufficient. In the interests of full justice, the following should occur,

  • John Key should front up and answer questions as well,
  • Bill English should front up and answer questions,
  • Tony Ryall should front up and answer questions,
  • All documentation should be made available to the Committee,
  • The Chairperson of the Select Committee – National MP Jonathan Young, should stand aside and  be replaced by a non-partisan senior judge or Queen’s Counsel,
  • If necessary, if the Committee is unable to answer questions, a full Royal Commission in Inquiry should be held.

National prides itself on being the party of ‘personal responsibility‘. It is no such thing. It is the party of personal advantage and not much more.

Thus far all we’ve had are evasiveness  and pathetic attempts to blame others. We’re also seeing more of the same from our Prime Minister;  bullshit.

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Previous related blogposts

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2

Dear Leader Key blames everyone else for Solid Energy’s financial crisis

Taking responsibility, National-style

References

NZ National Party: Solid Energy chief executive, Don Elder and Hon Bill English at Mataura (9 Sept 2011)

Scoop.co.nz: Solid Energy starts work at Mataura Briquette Plant (9 Sept 2011)

NBR: Key supports Solid Energy’s lignite plans (3 June 2011)

TV3: Govt, Labour squabble over Solid Energy (26 Feb 2013)

Dominion Post: Editorial: Solid Energy excuses fuel anger (2 March 2013)

TVNZ: Pressure grows on Don Elder to front over Solid Energy (8 March 2013)

Fairfax media: Minister, PM fine for Elder to appear for grilling (8 March 2013)

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How to sabotage the asset sales…

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Something I blogged on 25 June 2012, and now more appropriate than ever…

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On last weekends’ (23/24 June 2012) “The Nation“,  the issue of asset sales was discussed with   NZ First leader, Winston Peters; Green Party MP, Gareth Hughes; and Labour MP, Clayton Cosgrove,

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Whilst all three parties are staunchly opposed to state asset sales, NZ First leader, Winston Peters went one step further,  promising that his Party would buy back the assets.

Gareth Hughes and Clayton Cosgrove were luke-warm on the idea, quite rightly stating that there were simply too many variables involved in committing to a buy-back two and a half years out from the next election. (And Peters never followed through on his election pledge in 1996 to buy back NZ Forestry – “to hand back the envelope”, as he put it –  after National had privatised it.) There was simply no way of knowing what state National would leave the economy.

Considering National’s tragically incompetant economic mismanagement thus far, the outlook for New Zealand is not good. We can look forward to more of the usual,

  • More migration to Australia
  • More low growth
  • More high unemployment
  • More deficits
  • More skewed taxation/investment policies
  • Still more deficits
  • More cuts to state services
  • And did I mention more deficits?

By 2014, National will have frittered away most (if not all) of the proceeds from the sale of Meridian, Genesis, Mighty River Power, Solid Energy, and Air New Zealand.

In such an environment, it is difficult to sound plausible when promising to buy back multi-billion dollar corporations.

Not to be thwarted, Peters replied to a question by Rachel Smalley, stating adamantly,

The market needs to know that Winston Peters and a future government is going to take back  those assets. By that I mean pay no greater price than their first offering price. This is, if they transfer to seven or eight people, it doesn’t matter, we’ll pay the first price or less.

Bold words.

It remains to be seen if Peters will carry out that threat – especially if a number of his shareholders are retired Kiwi superannuitants?

When further questioned by Rachel Smalley, Peters offered specific  ideas how a buy-back might be funded,

Why can’t we borrow from the super fund, for example? And pay that back over time?  And why can’t we borrow from Kiwisaver  for example, and pay that back over time…”

The answer is that governments are sovereign and can make whatever laws they deem fit. That includes buying back assets at market value; at original sale price; or simple expropriation without  compensation. (The latter would probably be unacceptable to 99% of New Zealanders and would play havoc with our economy.)

Peters is correct; funding per se is not an issue. In fact, money could be borrowed from any number of sources, including overseas lenders. The gains from all five SOEs – especially the power companies – would outweigh the cost of any borrowings.

Eg,

  1. Cost of borrowing from overseas: 2% interest
  2. Returns from SOEs: 17%
  3. Profit to NZ: 15%

We make on the deal.

The question is, can an incoming Labour-Green-NZ First-Mana government accomplish such a plan?

Should such a  radical policy be presented to the public at an election, the National Party would go into Warp Drive with a mass  panic-attack.

But it’s not National that would be panicked.

It would be National going hard-out to panic the public.

National’s scare-campaign would promise the voters economic collapse;  investors deserting the country; a crashed share-market; cows drying up; a plague of locusts; the Waikato River turning to blood; hordes of zombie-dead rising up…

And as we all know, most low-information voters are highly susceptible to such fear-campaigns. The result would be predictable:

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But let’s try that again…

A more plausible scenario would have the leadership of Labour, NZ First, the Greens, and Mana, meeting at a secluded retreat for a high-level,  cross-party strategy conference.

At the conclusion of said conference, the Leaders emerge, with an “understanding”, of recognising each others’ differing policies,

  1. Winston Peters presents a plan to the public, promoting NZF policy to buy-back  the five SOEs. As per his  original proposals, all shares will be repurchased at original offer-price.
  2. The  Mana Party  buy-in  to NZ First’s plan and pledge their support.
  3. Labour and the Greens release the joint-Party declaration stating that  whilst they do not pledge support to NZ First/Mana’s proposal – neither do they discount it. At this point, say Labour and the Greens, all options are on the table.

That scenario creates considerable  uncertainty and anxiety  in the minds of potential share-purchasers. Whilst they know that they will be recompensed in any buy-back scheme – they are effectively stymied in on-selling the shares for gain. Because no new investor  in their right mind would want to buy  shares that (a) probably no one else will want to buy and (b) once the buy-back begins, they would lose out.

Eg; Peter buys 1,000 shares at original offer price of $2 per share. Cost to Peter: $2,000.

Peter then on-sells shares to Paul at $2.50 per share.  Cost to Paul: $2,500. Profit to Peter: $500.

Paul then cannot on-sell his shares – no one else is buying. Once elected, a new centre-left government implements a buy back of shares at original offer-price @ $2 per share. Price paid to Paul: $2,000. Loss to Paul: $500.

Such a strategy is high-stakes politics at it’s riskiest.   Even if Labour and the Greens do not commit to a specific buy-back plan, and “left their options open” –  would the public wear it?

The certainty in any such grand strategy is that the asset sale would be effectively sabotaged. No individual or corporate buyer would want to become involved in this kind of uncertainty.

Of less certainty is how the public would perceive  a situation (even if Labour and the Greens remained staunchly adamant that they were not committed to any buy-back plan) of political Parties engaging in such a deliberate  scheme of de-stabilisation of a current government’s policies.

The asset sales programme would most likely fail, for sure.

But at what cost? Labour and the centre-left losing the next election?

We may well end up winning the war to save our SOEs – but end up a casualty of the battle.

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Related Blog posts

Peter Dunne says

Campaign: Flood the Beehive!

Additional

Asset sales remain unpopular for NZers

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Dear Leader Key blames everyone else for Solid Energy’s financial crisis

28 February 2013 13 comments

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Continued from: That was Then, This is Now #18 (Solid Energy)

A bit of  very recent history,

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Solid Energy starts work at Mataura Briquette Plant

Friday, 9 September 2011, 2:57 pm
Press Release: Solid Energy NZ

9 September 2011

Solid Energy marks the start of work at its Mataura Briquette Plant

The Hon Bill English, MP for Clutha-Southland and Minister of Finance, today marked the official start of work at Solid Energy’s Mataura Briquette Plant, by “turning the first sod” at a small event on site with neighbours, local authorities, and other guests.

The $25 million Mataura briquette plant is planned to start production by June 2012. It will produce up to 90,000 tonnes a year of low-moisture and higher-energy briquettes from about 150,000 tonnes of lignite mined from Solid Energy’s New Vale Opencast Mine and trucked to the Craig Road site. The plant will use technology developed in the USA by GTL Energy.

Source

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Eighteen months later, on 19 February, the SOE Shareholders Bill English and Tony Ryall,  made this shock announcement to the public (see:  Statement on Solid Energy).

The media were quick to report the crisis,

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Solid Energy in debt crisis talks

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National’s response?

Default to Deflection #1 (see previous blogpost: National under attack – defaults to Deflection #2 )

As described in my previous blogpost (see:  Taking responsibility, National-style), National does not do Taking Responsibility very well. Their automatic instinct is to blame someone else – anyone – for problems of their making,

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National and John Key blames...

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And true-to-form, National and Dear Leader are once again playing the Blame Game over Solid Energy’s woes,

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Prime Minister criticises Solid Energy

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Govt, Labour squabble over Solid Energy

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“They can’t wash their hands of the fact that from 2003 on, they were intimately involved with the plans that that company had,” sez Key?!

Really? 2003 ???

Why stop at 2003?

Personally, if I was John Key, I’d be asking serious questions on Labour’s role in the sinking of the Titanic. The Cuban Missile Crisis. And don’t forget the 2007/08 Global Financial Meltdown – that has Labour’s fingerprints all over it, surely???

Getting serious again…

National is supposedly Very Big on responsibility issues. Their website is constantly referring to responsibility,

The National Party is built on age-tested principles that reflect what is best about New Zealand. We are a party of enterprise; a party of personal freedom and individual responsibility; a party of family; an inclusive party; a party of ambition.” – John Key, 27 May 2007

We also need to remember the enduring principles on which the National Party is based – individual responsibility, support for families and communities, and a belief that the State can’t and shouldn’t do everything.” – John Key, 30 January 2007

It seems that their constant refusals to accept responsibility is also one of those things that “the State can’t and shouldn’t do”, according to Dear Leader.

A few questions spring to mind,

  1. How far back will Key go to blame others for his failures?
  2. How many terms in office will National have to win, before blaming Labour or Uncle Tom Cobbly is no longer tenable?
  3. If John Key and his cronies are unable to ‘man-up’ and take a hit for any one of their balls-ups, and constantly feel the need to sheet responsibility back to Labour – then why is National in government? Why not just resign and put Labour back in office? After all, what would be the difference?

We wouldn’t accept finger-pointing and blame-gaming from our children (or, at least I hope we wouldn’t). So why is the public and media letting Key get away with it?

I look forward to National’s next major cock-up.

Who will they blame next? Australia?

Meanwhile,  back to 9 September 2011…

Doesn’t Bill seem a happy chappy in this photo-op?

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Solid Energy chief executive, Don Elder and Hon Bill English at Mataura  - 9 sept 2011

Source

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Bill English, poses with ex-Solid Energy CEO, Don Elder, as the ‘first sod is turned’ at a new  Briquette Plant in Mataura, Southland.

The same plant that was “Labour’s fault”.

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That was Then, This is Now #18 (Solid Energy)

24 February 2013 8 comments

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That was then…

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September 2011,

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Solid Energy chief executive, Don Elder and Hon Bill English at Mataura  - 9 sept 2011

Source

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Solid Energy starts work at Mataura Briquette Plant

Friday, 9 September 2011, 2:57 pm
Press Release: Solid Energy NZ

9 September 2011

Solid Energy marks the start of work at its Mataura Briquette Plant

The Hon Bill English, MP for Clutha-Southland and Minister of Finance, today marked the official start of work at Solid Energy’s Mataura Briquette Plant, by “turning the first sod” at a small event on site with neighbours, local authorities, and other guests.

The $25 million Mataura briquette plant is planned to start production by June 2012. It will produce up to 90,000 tonnes a year of low-moisture and higher-energy briquettes from about 150,000 tonnes of lignite mined from Solid Energy’s New Vale Opencast Mine and trucked to the Craig Road site. The plant will use technology developed in the USA by GTL Energy.

Source

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This is now…

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February, 2013…

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No more bonuses at Solid Energy - English

Source

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State miner to return to coalface

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A year and a half  later, neither Dear Leader Key nor Little Leader Bill English seemed terribly keen to be associated with  any more  photo-ops with Don Elder.

In fact, the much vaunted sod-turning in September 2011, to build a brand-new $25 million  briquette plant at Mataura, was no longer quite so glamous. Despite probably still having Southland dirt on his shoes, both Bill English and John Key were at pains to distance themselves from Solid Energy’s highly publicised energy projects,

“Four or five years ago they set out on a big programme of expenditure on alternative energy, including researching into lignite down south to coal gasification and other research-based speculation, and that hasn’t turned out the way they thought.” – Bill English, 22 Feb 2013

“The second thing is that they made a number of investments which have proved not to be very valuable and the Government has been working on that process for the last couple of years.” John Key, 23 Feb 2013

It’s amazing how politicians seem to have this ability – verging on a preternatural super power – to distance themselves from something  they had only recently embraced and supported with whole-hearted gusto.

Interesting to note that as well as the $23.5 million in bonuses paid  over the past two years to 950 employees,  Solid Energy also paid out considerable dividends to the government;

 

30 June 2009 – $59.9 million (source)

30 June 2010 – $54 million (source)

30 June 2011 – $20 million (source)

30 June 2012 (paid at 30 Sept 2011) – $30 million (source)

Total: $163.9 million

Plus millions more paid in company tax.

With the data above, I have some questions;

  1. It seems remarkable that National only discovered a couple of days ago that Solid Energy’s financial position was not sound. What was Bill English doing last year?
  2. How could Solid Energy’s financial position go from a pre-tax profit of  $127.5 million (see: Solid Energy shines despite earthquakes) in August 2011 – to a massive $389 million debt this year? Did National gouge one of our cash-state-cows?
  3. With Solid Energy’s expansion projects (which Bill English must’ve known about, as he turned a sod of earth in Southland on 9 September 2011), were the dividends paid since 2009 realistic?
  4. With National’s track record of constantly shifting responsibility away from themselves, who are pointing the finger at? With all the highly paid Ministers, board members, and executives – will the office cleaner be held to account?
  5. Is the corporate model, with big salaries and bonuses paid to executives and an evident  lack of transparency, appropriate for state owned enterprises?
  6. Will workers be made to suffer job lossses and subsequent economic hardship, because of the actions of  Solid Energy’s executives and Crown Ministers? Why aren’t the workers offered the same ‘golden parachute’ that ex-CEO Don Elder most likely received?

No doubt neo-liberals will point to the failure of  ‘Solid Energy’ as proof-positive that governments cannot run state-owned businesses.

Not true.

This is proof positive that National (or other right wing) governments cannot run state-owned businesses.

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Acknowledgement

Tim Jones, Coal Action Network Aotearoa

Previous Blog Post

That was Then, This is Now #17

Other Blogs

Robert Guyton: Comments on Solid Energy

The Standard: Nats’ fossil fuel bet & culture of excess bankrupted Solid Energy

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Wellingtonians rally to send a message to the Beehive! (part toru)

17 February 2013 3 comments

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SOEs

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Continued from:

 

Wellingtonians rally to send a message to the Beehive! (part rua)

 

NZ, Wellington, 13 February 2013 – At this point, there was some light entertainment – firstly from this chap,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  aotearoa not for sale - 13 february 2013 - frank kitts park - wellington - anti asset sales

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“John Key” – first tried to convince the crowd that he’s really a “nice guy”.  The response from the crowd was anything but ‘understanding’.

“John Key” then sang his now-famous version of the New Zealand anthem, which he said was now “partially privatised” – so minus every third or fourth word. Thwe song made bugger-all sense – much like asset sales themselves.

The anthem was missing the last line, which he said, had been “sold in it’s entirety, including the word ‘New Zealand’.

After “John Key” was ‘helped’ off the stage with accompanying boos and cat-calls, Energy campaigner, Molly Melhuish took the microphone.

Ms Melhuish spoke for Greypower. Like Geoff Bertram, she is also deeply knowledgeable about all facets of the energy industry, including pricing systems used for residential, commercial, and industrial sectors.

As always, listeners leave a talk by Ms Melhuish with a greater knowledge and insights into the electricity industry in our country,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  aotearoa not for sale - 13 february 2013 - frank kitts park - wellington - anti asset sales

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Ms Melhuish first explained a bit of the background of the  “Keep our Assets” campaign,

“… Greypower was essentially asked to front this campaign, and we said at the first strategic meeting of the ‘Keep our Assets’ campaign that we wanted to co-front it with the youth, so we found a youth group, it was the University Students Association.

Because we believe this campaign is about those older people. Surprisingly many of our members were involved in building those assets. We said they’re ours, we want to keep them.

But we speak to our grand-children and our grand-children recognise… they just don’t want them sold. So the Greypower group board as a group, supported this ‘Keep our Assets’ campaign, all seven zones.

There are a small number of individuals in our meetings who really believed John Key when he said ‘we have to sell the assets so we can  re-pay the debts’. Geoff [Bertram] told you how wrong that is, but people are conservative,  want to be safe, and many, or most of the people who still say ‘we have to sell the asssets’ do so because they believed [John Key]. John Key is a show pony, he’s… telling the story told to him by others. He’s  a used car salesman. Would you buy a used car off that guy? I wouldn’t.”

“…Just yesterday afternoon, I spoke to Mana Tawa… The very very first question I asked was ‘Why can’t we have solar power on our houses? Our family in the U.K., you know, they got money to put photo-voltaics [on our roofs] and they were able to pay it off on our power bills. She said, ‘Why can’t we have that?”

We could, but we have to vote for it.

We won’t under this administration.

Another one  said, when I bought my place in a retuirement village in Porirua, we were promised lower bills. We are now paying more for our little retirement village than I paid for a four bedroom house.

So you get a captive consumer and they  can hike power bills not twice, but four times!

Greypower now has a policy that says energy leglislation must say [that] all household energy and especially electricity must be provided in a manner that’s fair, sustainable, efficient, and reliable. That was the law in 2001- Labour changed the law to make that. [But] National government took away “fair and sustainable” [from legislation]. That is wrong.

What to do about it? Change the government!

The only way you will get a change is to change the government! Vote for it! Peter Love told you that  in the first speech; vote for change. Greypower sez vote for change. That’s your job – We Greypower can support it but it is your job to vote for change.”

And she’s right. The only way we can effect change is by the ballot in the Voting Booth. Deciding not to vote because of some half-arsed cliche about “all politicians being the same”  is defeatist garbage. It is  craven surrender to forces who welcome people giving away their vote because vested interests have persuaded you that “change is not possible”.

Change is possible. But not when cynicism guides your decisions.

Molly Melhuish was followed by Aotearoa Not For Sale activist, Frances, who spoke of her own ‘journey’ to  set aside her apathy and become active. Despite English being a second language from Frances, her words were truly inspiring. A million New Zealanders like her, and no government would dare risk selling our treasures,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  aotearoa not for sale - 13 february 2013 - frank kitts park - wellington - anti asset sales

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Frances first described the desperate conditions that afflict the poor or unemployed in other countries, where social welfare services barely exist, or not at all. She referred to the shame of someone loosing their job, and killing themselves and their entire family by mass-suicide – because the provisions that we often take for granted (or that right-wingers complain about), do not exist in their society.

“…I saw this country as a country so beautiful and with a humanity and the government with a heart [?] to looking after the poor and the under-privileged and  the vulnerable groups. But throught the years I don’t know what has happened, I was too busy looking after kids, young children, and being someone who didn’t speak very good english. I sort of stayed low and keeped quiet and don’t want to say much about nothing against   government. Although I do complain a lot at home if I say something, I see the government doesn’t do something nice to people.

But then I accidently walked through a public meeting … beginning of last  year and then that was about state asset sale. And I was so shocked about what ‘s going to happen. And I thought, well,  for the last 15 years my shower time from … ten minutes down to three minutes, because we need to have a budget for our power because the power bill kept going up.And then I cut my hair short so I don’t have to spend so much time [in the shower]. So all these things, and  I decided maybe this year I will not harass my kids to have a showers if they don’t want to because it’s just getting more and more expensive.

There might be more stinky people around the city.

And hey, we are from middle income family, and during the winter time we fight often … argue with my husband about whether we should have the heater on. And I just never thought  will  come to this day!

And now they’re going to privatise these companies and  sell to all those rich, only going to benefit the very rich few. Especially some foreign companies. And I was like,  that’s not right, I can’t afford to pay even higher bills.”

And I thought, what happened? … From me not paying attention to politics. I actually don’t like politics. I  want to just appreciate art and literature, but then from me not doing anything for so many years, what has this country become? Because a lot of people are like like me, they don’t like politics. They don’t want to take action; “I often give them moral support, I’ll  give you some  dollars, but you do the work. You go against the government.”

But then this time I realised what example I was setting for my children…

… But I feel great because I work with so many dedicated people and so many beautiful people, and  selfless. And they are wonderful. We are all trying to make this country a better place for us, for others,  for our children.

And for middle income like us, we struggle, and I just hate to think how the low income, how the  beneficiary actually survive. And this government keep taking things away from the general  public, from the  weaker and from the vulnerable group. …

… Being a housewife, what can I do? I go out to collect signatures because that’s  easy thing for me to do. It takes a lot and time and a lot of effort, but I’m glad I can make  contribution. And I feel everybody here can make contribution…

… And being at home I can teach my kids, say, well don’t believe everything you heard from the media. And don’t just listen to what people say, you watch what they do. Especially our Prime Minister.

Frances finished with these thoughts,

“We can all make a difference… I saw so many people on the street. Some  are angry but most  of them are so depressed because they think government will never listen, and they think what we are doing going to be  in vain, just not going to change anything.  And I say to them, I say, if you don’t make any noise for this, what do you think government are going do to us next?

I want to set  example to my children to say, if you really believe, and you have to believe, you can make a difference, you can change something. You just take actions and do whatever you can….

… But  we have to still have to pressure the government, we want our referendum now, not later!

… One day when my kids ask me ‘mum have you done anything to protect us from being attacked by our government’ then I can say, I have done something. And I hope we can all say that, say  we have done something to protect you from bad government policies.”

Amen to that, Frances.

Frances struggled at times with the English language  – but the message she gave was as clear and meaningful as words could possibly convey.

This blogger found her to be truly inspirational.

As clouds darkened the evening sky, and the southerly ‘breeze’ gave a ‘bite’ to the assembled crowd, there was final entertainment from Steve and  John,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  aotearoa not for sale - 13 february 2013 - frank kitts park - wellington - anti asset sales

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And finally, a rousing applause given to Richard, who shouldered much of the responsibility in organising the event,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  aotearoa not for sale - 13 february 2013 - frank kitts park - wellington - anti asset sales

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Meanwhile, further down the waterfront, others were more comfortable with their boutique beers and frothy lattes,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  aotearoa not for sale - 13 february 2013 - frank kitts park - wellington - anti asset sales

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Want to help?

Make a donation (any size) to: BNZ, 02-0560-0158770-00

Volunteer by contacting: saynotoassetsales@gmail.com

Go to: any of the Relevant orgs listed below.

Additional

TV3: Asset sales referendum likely (6 Feb 2013)

TV3: Govt under fire over Contact redundancies (14 Feb 2013)

NBR: Supreme Court to ignore govt deadline on water rights decision (15 Feb 2013)

Youtube: Say No to Asset sales in Aotearoa NZ.mov

Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  •     Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  •     At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  •     Acknowledgement of source is requested.

Relevant orgs

It’s Our Future

Keep our Assets

Aotearoa is not for Sale

Aotearoa is Not for Sale | Facebook

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