Keeping our assets is key to embracing a clean energy future.The deadline has now passed for public submissions on whether the Government should proceed with the sale of some of New Zealand’s key, strategic state-owned assets including Meridian, Solid Energy, Mighty River Power and Genesis Energy. Hundreds of people made submissions and it appears that most are vehemently opposed to the sales.
There are many reasons why John Key’s fire sale of the nation’s most prized and successful assets has been rejected so resoundingly.
Close scrutiny has shown his argument that the revenue generated from the sale will help balance the Treasury’s books is economically flawed - and some suggest it’s a Trojan horse inside which rides the big business agenda to get its hands on these valuable state assets.
For New Zealanders struggling through difficult times the threat of higher bills, less public accountability and concerns over the haemorrhaging of profits overseas caused by sales of our state assets are all problematic.
But on top of these is also the added risk that this sell-off could damage New Zealand’s ability to build a more sustainable, more prosperous future - and it is for this pertinent reason Greenpeace has added its voice to the Aotearoa is Not For Sale march and will be inviting our membership to join others in Auckland on the 28th April.
Cashing in on our profitable power houses - these companies represent about 70per cent of NZ’s generating power - for short term gain not only cuts off a financial lifeline that New Zealanders have toiled for decades to secure, but it short circuits our ability to determine the type of energy future we want.
Faced with the enormous challenge of tackling climate change and a volatile, unstable global economy, now is not the time for New Zealand to sell off our highly successful, resilient renewable energy power-base and the wealth of clean energy innovators that could be the cornerstone of a cleaner, smarter economy.
The partial sale to predominantly overseas investors will surrender our embarrassingly plentiful clean energy riches to the vagaries of the shareholders’ bottom line. Commercial imperative and the drive for a quick return on investment could not only delay and deter the switch to increased renewable energy use, but corrode our aspiration and best opportunity to be a cutting edge developer and exporter of renewable technologies. This is the very same type of clean energy expertise and know-how that will be a highly valued and sought after commodity in a low carbon world.
Partial privatisation could also severely limit the ability of government to make social and environmental sustainability a core requirement of the way these companies operate in the future. When an asset is even partially privatized, then the rights of the private investors who buy shares become paramount - the need to be a good corporate citizen casually discarded.
Worryingly, the sell-off could also increase the likelihood of not only New Zealand relinquishing control over the decisions the companies make, but could in effect mean that prized energy assets like Manapouri power station could also be sold off into full foreign ownership and control. Our own national, renewable resources – the bedrock of our energy network - would no longer be in Kiwi hands.
At this crucial time in New Zealand’s energy history we need a road map towards a sustainable, clean economy and strategies that capitalise on our world class renewable energy expertise. With the right vision and political will, we can keep our renewable energy know-how and innovation in New Zealand, realising the potential to create thousands of green, highly paid jobs; insulate our economy from the volatile fossil fuel markets; and build a more sustainable future for our country.
But to do this we need to have control over our energy infrastructure and the decisions made regarding the technology pathways we choose.