Price of power looks likely to become an issue, now that the Tiwai Point smelter wants to keep operating

A  shot  in  the  arm  for  the  province of  Southland   came  this  week  with  the  news  that  the  Tiwai Point  aluminium  smelter  will not  shut  down in  2024 — and  could  have  a  long  term   future.

Since the  global  giant Rio Tinto  renegotiated the  last  electricity  contract, extending  the  life  of the  smelter for  three  years  from 2021, the  price  of aluminium soared as high  as  $US3800  a  tonne, and  although  it   has  retreated  from those  levels,  it is  still  high  at  around $US2400.

And  because the aluminium produced  at  Tiwai  Point  is  among the purest  in the  world, it is  not surprising   that Rio Tinto, and its Japanese partner, Sumitomo,  want  to  continue  production.

The  question now is whether Meridian Energy, which supplies  the  bulk of Tiwai Point’s   electricity  from the  big  Manapouri   station,  will   be   willing  to  do  so  without  a  significant  price  hike.  The  last  price  negotiation  was  difficult,  with  Rio  Tinto  using  the  threat of  closure  to  screw  the  price  down. Continue reading “Price of power looks likely to become an issue, now that the Tiwai Point smelter wants to keep operating”

Why the Govt is on course to be given a “fail” mark for its work in our schools and polytechnics

Covid-19 was never going to be kind to the country’s education sector, especially when our school children were already sliding down the OECD rankings for literacy, maths and science and there was a lack of equity in terms of at-home and online learning.

But it’s hard  to look  at  the sector and  not  conclude   there  has  been  a  colossal  failure.

  • School  attendance rates  for  term 1 fell  below 50%.
  • The  polytechnic  mega merger  is  said  to be  unravelling at  pace.
  • The leaders of 10 regional principals’ associations say schools are at or near breaking point because of the stress of staff and student absences.  They have implored the government to reveal as soon as possible how it would help teens pass NCEA this year.

But  who  should be blamed?

Is  it  just  Covid   that  has  done the  damage?   Or  have  other  factors  been at  work? Continue reading “Why the Govt is on course to be given a “fail” mark for its work in our schools and polytechnics”

James Shaw and the challenge for the Greens: how to get the politicking right when you want to steer clear of the centre

A  week  ago   Point  of  Order  noted   how James Shaw was  fending  off  challenges,  first  from  his  political  opponents on  his  climate  change policies,  and  then against  his co-leadership  of  the  Green  Party.  He   emerged  unscathed  from  the  first  but  then lost  his  co-leadership.

Yet  beneath that  quiet  exterior  lurks  a  man  with  intent.

He   truly  believes  in  what  he  is  doing in  shaping  the  country’s  climate-change  policy,  and he  is not  blinking in the  face  of  the  challenge  from within the  party  that  he  is  not  doing  enough  to  stave off  back  the  climatic  apocalypse.

Radio NZ’s Morning Report today  reported  he will contest the Green Party’s co-leadership after being ousted from the role.

“I’m not done,” he told  the  programme.

Shaw made the announcement after failing to get the 75% of delegates’ votes he needed at the party’s online annual meeting at the weekend (a formidably high threshold) to be reconfirmed in the role.

Co-leader Marama Davidson was reconfirmed by delegates. Continue reading “James Shaw and the challenge for the Greens: how to get the politicking right when you want to steer clear of the centre”

Govt lures migrants with millions to invest – but its “rebalanced” policy is still weighted in favour of English speakers

Buzz from the Beehive

The  government’s  immigration  policies  have  come  under heavy  fire  in recent  weeks,  even   though  the  shortages  of  key  workers — nurses  for  example — have  become  acute.

One response to the critics – included among the latest Beehive announcements – is something the government is calling its  “Immigration Rebalance  strategy”.  But one flaw quickly becomes obvious.

More of that later.

For now, let’s note that the Immigration Rebalance strategy is vying for media attention, analysis and debate  along with

  • The latest ministerial bragging about benefits continuing to fall;
  • A message to the biggest polluters that they will have to do more to help meet climate targets because of changes the government is making to decade-old settings (these settings “have allocated far too many free climate pollution credits to New Zealand’s largest emitters”, Climate Change Minister James Shaw said);
  • The launch of the country’s  first nationwide tsunami evacuation map (perhaps to heighten our anxieties as we increasingly observe the impacts of climate change around the world);
  • The provision of $179m of government funding to seven centres around the country for groundwork infrastructure such as  pipes and roads that will enable over 8,000 new homes to be built;
  • A speech from the PM to the Local Government New Zealand conference (our team is struggling to find nuggets of hard news in the contents).

Continue reading “Govt lures migrants with millions to invest – but its “rebalanced” policy is still weighted in favour of English speakers”

Shaw feels the heat from Opposition on climate change and from young Greens on his co-leadership

 

Green  Party  co-leader  James  Shaw is   fending  off  challenges,  first  in  his  role  as  Climate  Change Minister  and  then  in  his  role   at the  head  of  his  party.

At  a  hearing of  Parliament’s  Environment Select Committee this week he faced  attacks  from  National and  Act MPs on his climate  change  policies. Meanwhile the party faithful will meet in Christchurch this weekend, with some members of the youth arm planning to force a vote on his leadership.

In  the  select committee hearing the National Party MP Scott Simpson led  the  charge, saying the Emissions Reduction Plan was full of ideas and commitments but few concrete actions. Continue reading “Shaw feels the heat from Opposition on climate change and from young Greens on his co-leadership”

Free-thinking Chloe has gone out to bat for impoverished students – but inflation-fuelling govt spending needs to be bowled first

Chloe  Swarbrick   is  one  of  the  most  interesting  politicians  in  the New Zealand  Parliament, a  highly  effective  campaigner  who – after one  term as  a  List MP – won Auckland  Central  for  the  Green  Party.

Still  only 28,  she  is   already  seen  as  a  future   leader  of her  party.

This  week   she took up  the  cudgels  on  behalf  of students  and  gave  the  government  a  hammering.

She pointed  to new evidence showing that thousands of students are living in poverty, with many struggling to pay rent and put food on the table.

“Everyone in this country deserves to live a life of dignity. Our new research shows that’s a right denied to thousands of students. Political decisions over the last few decades have normalised and entrenched student poverty. This wasn’t an accident. It can be fixed,” says  Swarbrick  who  is Green Party spokesperson for tertiary education. Continue reading “Free-thinking Chloe has gone out to bat for impoverished students – but inflation-fuelling govt spending needs to be bowled first”

Why we are puzzled by the polls and what they are telling us about prospects of the Nats and ACT forming a government

Here’s a  political  conundrum:   why  aren’t   Opposition  parties  doing better in the  opinion polls?

National’s  leadership  has  settled  in, and it’s fair to say support for the Nats has increased since Christopher Luxon replaced Judith Collins.  But the gains have been at the expense of ACT.

And  together,  the two parties  are not  polling  well  enough  to  form a  government on  their own.

It will be worth watching to see if ACT does better after  holding an upbeat  conference last weekend,  oozing confidence levels which  party leader  David  Seymour  might  not  have  recognised  just  five or  so years  ago.

But meanwhile it might take only the suggestion of  a  success  or  two  for  the  government to  turn  around  the  slump  in its  fortunes.

So  far  there  is  no  sign  of that turnaround.

A  government   which began with a  show  of  capability,  if  not in a  blaze  of  glory, is  now finding  that  almost everything  it  touches   fades  into  ashes  so  quickly that   there  is  nothing, or  very little, to see. Continue reading “Why we are puzzled by the polls and what they are telling us about prospects of the Nats and ACT forming a government”

ACT could tap into a rich vein of support by pushing for higher education standards and a stronger Defence force

Emerging  from  its  annual conference, the  ACT  Party’s  leadership appears to  regard itself already  as  a key element in  the  next government.

ACT leader  David  Seymour had  the  conference  cheering  as  he  spoke   of  how  ACT  would ensure in the first hundred days of the  next  government,  Labour’s  measures on Three Waters, the Māori Health Authority, the 39c tax rate, and Fair Pay Agreements  would  all be  gone,  just as ACT’s policies on 90-day trials, three strikes, oil and gas exploration and charter schools would be reinstated.

No  surprises  there.

But  ACT   will  need far  more  than  this  if  it is  to  win over  the  thousands  of   additional  votes  to make  certain  it does have  a powerful voice,  rather  than being  just   a  prop  for  National.  It will need  Cabinet  ministers  in  influential   roles.

Most of the issues highlighted by Seymour are likely to get National’s support or are changes which National already has said it will enact.  He admits getting them to repeal the Zero Carbon Act will be harder.

“We’re going to have to push very hard on that one, because they’ve committed themselves so heavily, but I think it’s worth doing,” he said. Continue reading “ACT could tap into a rich vein of support by pushing for higher education standards and a stronger Defence force”

PM traces shift in our independent foreign policy under Labour – and rails against ‘morally bankrupt’ United Nations

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, enjoying her  global celebrity  status  in Australia,  has  also succeeded in  clawing back  her  poll  ratings  in New Zealand.   According  to the  Roy Morgan  poll,  Labour has  risen  a  couple  of  points  to   33.5%  while  National has  edged  back a  point  to 39% since  May.

On the  Roy Morgan  sampling, the  Maori Party  would  hold  the balance  of  power.   Given the  apparent distaste of that party’s two members  in Parliament  for  parties  of the  Right, this could ensure  Labour  has  another term .

Ardern brushed off  a  question on the  ABC  about her  global celebrity  status, saying  her  total  focus  was  at  home.

“That  is  what matters  to  me”.

Nevertheless  her major  speech  in  Australia, to  the  Lowy Institute,  centred on  NZ’s  foreign  policy  and  traced  how  far   NZ  has moved since  Labour  took office in 2017. Continue reading “PM traces shift in our independent foreign policy under Labour – and rails against ‘morally bankrupt’ United Nations”

Pressure is on other processors to match Fonterra and Synlait on milk price forecasts

Competition  for  raw  milk  supplies  has  sharpened  as  Synlait Milk has joined  Fonterra  with a milk price forecast for the new dairy season   at  $9.50kg/MS.

Earlier  the  company had  announced  a  milk price  for  the  2022-23  season at  $9kg/MS, but    the  outlook has  got  even  better since  then, with  foreign  exchange  movements  further supporting a  strong  milk price.

The upgraded price is a record for the company.

Synlait CEO  Grant Watson says the forecasted lift in milk price reflects an improved outlook for 2022/23 dairy commodity prices, following the recent recovery in pricing, and the current strength of the US dollar.

“Over the next two days we’ll be meeting with our farmers at annual events in the Waikato and Canterbury and it will be great to share this news with them.”

There was no change to its forecast milk price for the 2021/2022 dairy season, which remains at $9.30 kg/MS.

With both Synlait  and  Fonterra racing to set their  forecasts so  high at the  beginning  of  a  new  season, the  pressure goes  on  other  processors  to  match them. Continue reading “Pressure is on other processors to match Fonterra and Synlait on milk price forecasts”