Tim Dower: What can replace the Tiwai Point smelter in Southland?

Author
Tim Dower,
Publish Date
Fri, 10 Jul 2020, 11:09AM
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Tim Dower: What can replace the Tiwai Point smelter in Southland?

Author
Tim Dower,
Publish Date
Fri, 10 Jul 2020, 11:09AM

It's bad news and the timing isn't great, but it was never going to be.

The question now that we have a date for the end of the Tiwai Point Smelter is where to from here.

Is this maybe a case of one door closing and another one opening?

On the downside, replacing a couple of thousand well-paid jobs in Southland is not going to be easy.

People are talking about aquaculture and the like, but the truth is we're not talking big numbers and we're not necessarily talking big dollars.

I'm keen to hear what Shane Jones has to say on this later in the programme.

On the question of the power well, don't expect any big dividend there.

The smelter partly came out of the think big era it guzzles more electricity than any other single user in the country.

It's enough to run nearly 800,000 average homes, more than half of Auckland if you like and it's sold at a sweetheart super-cheap rate.

So do we expect this sudden glut of power to mean sharply lower prices for the rest of us?

Well, no, not right away, not for years if ever.

The power is generated in the deep south. 

And because our poor old power network is somewhat neglected it's stuck there.

Work has started on upgrading those links, but we're talking hundreds and hundreds of kilometres of ugly transmission cables...and years and years to put them up.

Meantime, Meridian will be spilling water from its dams in the South, and we'll still be forking out a fortune for power elsewhere.

Answers well, maybe we take the industry to where the power is.

Microsoft wants to build a big new data centre here and those things really guzzle it up.

But after the build are there that many ongoing jobs and could they be enticed to Southland?

What about hydrogen production it could use the power but then you've got to get the product to the markets.

I asked at the start...is this a case of one door closing...and another one opening?

I don't know...but I think it's an occasion when we need to 'think big' again.