Here we go again. Every time that Rio Tinto, the gargantuan mining and processing transnational which owns 80% of they Bluff smelter, feels that its charmed existence in New Zealand is going to become less cushy, it threatens to pull the plug, close the smelter and walk away.
Last time it did so (in 2008) was because of the Labour Government’s proposed emissions trading scheme. This time it is trying it on as a tactic to try to pressure Meridian over its power price contract, which has already been negotiated and is due to take effect in January.
‘Stop using NZ workers as disposable pawns’
Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) calls Rio Tinto’s bluff (pun intended) Stop crying wolf, stop using your New Zealand workers as disposable pawns in your cynical game, stop holding Southland and the country to ransom.
Go ahead and close the smelter and bugger off. See if we care, the country will be much better off without you.
The smelter is the country’s single biggest user of electricity, consuming one sixth of the total, 24/7 for more than 40 years. It pays a top-secret super-cheap price that is not available for any other user and all it does is export electricity from NZ in the form of alumina, while being subsidised by all other electricity users.
The smelter is the textbook example of corporate welfare in New Zealand. It is the biggest bludger in the country. Those who extol the bracing discipline of market forces for everybody else are strangely coy when it comes to this corporate recidivist.
Rio Tinto Alcan won the 2011 Roger Award for the Worst Transnational Corporation Operating In Aotearoa/New Zealand. It was nominated for lobbying two Governments “over several years to secure excessive allocations of free emissions units under the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme”.
Transnational corporate rort
The Roger Award judges agreed, concluding: “It appears therefore, that the New Zealand taxpayer is subsidising a transnational corporate rort of the emissions trading scheme… The significance of this stance cannot be underestimated; a major transnational player within New Zealand materially benefits from its non-compliance with a strategy to reduce global climate change and its ecological effects”.
The Judges’ Report concludes that the company has a 50-year history of “suborning, blackmailing and conning successive New Zealand governments into paying massive subsidies on the smelter’s electricity; dodging tax, and running a brilliantly effective PR machine to present a friendly, socially responsible and thoroughly greenwashed face to the media and the public. Its milking of the Emissions Trading Scheme is entirely in character”.
The extremely detailed Financial Analysis reveals that the smelter’s claimed benefits to NZ, namely annual export earnings of “around $1 billion” are, in fact, overstated by four fifths.
The full, damning, 2011 Roger Award Judges’ Report can be read at http://canterbury.cyberplace.co.nz/community/CAFCA/publications/Roger/Roger2011.pdf
Liability…not an asset.
In short, it is a liability to New Zealand, not an asset.
What about the people who work for the smelter, directly or indirectly? The tobacco industry used to employ a lot of people here, but that was deemed to be no longer in the public interest.
Lacing lollywater with booze and selling it to kids supports a lot of jobs too but there’s plenty of public demand to get rid of that particular industry as well.
The P industry provides an income for thousands of people too, but we don’t hear any demand for that insidious trade to be kept going to keep them in a job. History is full of examples of horrible industries that kept people in jobs (such as the slave trade) but which were banned and/or abolished for the greater good.
This smelter constitutes a crime against the people of New Zealand.