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John MacDonald: Government's refinery inquiry is pointless

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 21 Mar 2024, 1:18pm
Photo / Tania Whyte
Photo / Tania Whyte

John MacDonald: Government's refinery inquiry is pointless

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 21 Mar 2024, 1:18pm

It was only November last year when the owner of the Marsden Point oil refinery told the incoming government to forget about any idea of re-opening the Marsden Point Oil Refinery. 

The Government obviously wasn’t listening though, because the Associate Energy Minister Shane Jones has announced an inquiry into getting the refinery up-and-running again. 

He says: “Despite the desire we all share to see New Zealand free of its reliance on fossil fuels, that is the stuff of fairy tales. New Zealand will continue to need gas and oil to keep our economy moving for decades to come.” 

But I’ll tell you right now. This inquiry will go nowhere. Because, while the Associate Minister thinks we’re dreaming if we think we’re going to end our reliance on fossil fuels, he’s dreaming thinking that the thing can be kicked back into gear.  

Maybe I was slightly unfair to the Government just then, saying that it wasn’t listening when the outfit which owns Marsden Point told it back in November to forget about trying to bring the refinery back to life.  

The Government probably was listening but, to get the coalition deal across the line, Christopher Luxon had to go with NZ First’s idea of making Marsden great again after it was shut down by Refining NZ in April 2022. 

And that’s a key thing here. Marsden Point wasn’t shut down by the government as some people seem to think. It was shut down by Refining NZ which, these days, calls itself Channel Infrastructure. 

240 jobs went and, ever since, the closure has been blamed for all sorts of things from high fuel prices to cruddy roads.  

That’s because, when it was operating, Marsden Point produced about 70% of the bitumen used in New Zealand for roads. Now we have to import 100% of the bitumen we need.  

So, prior to the election, NZ First picked up on all the talk about Marsden Point and that’s why we had this announcement yesterday of an inquiry into re-opening it. 

Which, I tell you, will mean a truckload of time and taxpayer money going into something that will go nowhere. It will come to nothing. 

That’s because the people who know a thing-or-two about running Marsden Point say it would cost billions to get it up and running again because there is nothing there that can just be plugged-in and cranked up again. 

Here’s what the chief executive of the company that used to run it and shut it down two years ago said just last month. Rob Buchanan’s his name. He said: ‘There is no part of the former refinery that can be re-started.”     

What’s more, he said that re-opening it would cost billions of dollars, it would take years, and then, once it was open, would require specialist staff to work there. And they’ve all moved on to other things. 

So, as far as I’m concerned, we need to forget about having an oil refinery here. 

Because, if the people who know a thing-or-two about running refineries think it’s a stupid idea - then who am I going to listen to? The people who know what they’re on about? Or a politician who has heard a bit of noise and reckons there might be some political mileage in it? 

I’ll go with the refinery experts any day, thanks.  

What’s more, a new report says if we got into offshore wind energy production, it could contribute $50 billion to GDP between now and 2050.  

It was done by PWC for several energy and infrastructure sector players, including Bluefloat Energy which wants to put 65 fixed wind turbines in the South Taranaki Bight. 

The report says offshore wind could directly contribute to a 26% reduction in New Zealand's energy emissions by 2050. It also says if we really got into wind energy generation, 10,000 jobs would be created while we were building all the infrastructure needed. And there’d be about 2,000 ongoing jobs in things like operations and maintenance. 

Which, for me, is further proof that the Government is barking up the wrong tree with this Marsden Point inquiry. Which will go nowhere. 

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