Mike Yardley: Rio Tinto's not a charity case

Author
Mike Yardley,
Publish Date
Fri, 10 Jul 2020, 9:20AM
Photo / File

Mike Yardley: Rio Tinto's not a charity case

Author
Mike Yardley,
Publish Date
Fri, 10 Jul 2020, 9:20AM

It’s a hammer blow for Bluff, for Invercargill, for Southland. So many jobs, so many livelihoods heading for the shredder over the next fourteen months. One thousand at the smelter and sixteen hundred downstream jobs. Ten per cent of the regional economy.

 

But as much as Rio Tinto has a penchant for playing who blinks first, I respect the Finance Minister for not buckling, not capitulating to their increasingly grasping ways.

 

I love Southland. We all feel for Southland. But Grant Robertson has stood firm, upholding the position of Key, Joyce and English. No more hand-outs. As it is, Rio Tinto is charged a pepper-corn usage rate by Meridian. A quarter of the consumer’s rate. Does Rio Tinto really expect the gentailer now gives its power away to them for free? Rio Tinto already pocket a sixty five million dollar carbon subsidy under the ETS scheme. And under the Transmission Pricing changes, they would soon be paying eleven million dollars a year less in grid charges. But it’s never enough for these guys.

 

I was gazing over their disgusting dross dump in Mataura just a couple of weeks ago. They’re not exactly the exemplar of good corporate citizenship.

 

Aluminium prices continue to fall. As Grant Robertson rightly highlighted, just look at aviation. New aircraft today are typically constructed out of composites, not the aluminium tubes of old.

Rio Tinto is playing the same game, with the same tricks in Iceland right now. Enough – they’re not a charity case.

Meanwhile, as we’ve seen in the north, the ripple effects have started, with Contact pressing pause on some generation projects. When the Clutha Waitaki transmission upgrade is complete, that gusher of surplus of Meridian power from Manapouri could have a very positive impact on your power bill – depending on where you live in the country. But Southland will need real help to develop and expand industry and jobs, whether its agritech or aquaculture. Rich in resourceful people and a gutsy spirit, they will be up for the challenge.