John Key has announced a back down on his plans to sell off the first of our state owned assets – Mighty River Power. He claimed that although he did not accept the argument that Maori had property rights over the affected waterways, he would consult with them anyway. Jolly gracious of him, but it doesn’t change the fact that once they’ve ticked that box they seem intent on pressing on with their firesale anyway.
But will they manage it now? It does seem that Prime Minister Key and his cabinet have got themselves in a bit of a tangle here - and it’s not just their PR machine that’s tying them in knots. It’s their inability to manage our country and our prosperity going forward.
The economic case for selling state owned assets has been widely panned by opposition parties and economists alike, and indeed anyone with a bit of common sense can see that the numbers don’t stack up. There’s the inevitable price hike in our energy bills at home as investors look to boost their profits at a time when New Zealanders are facing an uphill struggle. And then there’s the eye watering costs of just preparing for sale which could run in to the hundreds of millions.
The latest delay is another signal that the wheels are coming off National's economic wagon.
Frankly, the Government’s handling of the economy has become farcical. Once touted as a 'safe pair of hands', John Key now looks like a rabbit in the headlights when pressed on his vision for New Zealand. National have bubble wrapped Government policy in an ideology that simply doesn’t work and is determined to bully the nation in to accepting its dogma that we have no choice but to do things their way or not at all.
Sell it, cut it, drill it, frack it, burn it and dig it for a brighter future? It’s hardly what one would call progress.
Let’s not forget that it was John key and his money changing chums that are largely responsible for getting us in the global financial mess we’re, whilst they all lined their pockets.
However, as they say – “every cloud has a silver lining” and this of true of the situation we are now in. The delay to asset sales provides extra opportunity to join the quarter of a million Kiwi’s who’ve already signed the petition to force a referendum on asset sales - before they can sell the first company. If you haven’t signed it yet, I urge you to do so.
But the assets sales issue is not the only blot on the Government’s economic text book.
With a fossil fuel agenda that’s so out of date it’s probably chiselled into rock, the Government has been left embarrassed by comments from former NASA’s scientist and Google Earth founder, Dr Tim Foresman, who described our transport and energy policy as being “back there with the Neanderthals”.
And he’s right. There is growing frustration amongst progressive businesses and commentators in NZ that the Government is so fixated with delivering an agenda that’s doomed to failure that it’s squandering valuable opportunities to kick start our economy by harnessing our greatest asset – us.
New Zealanders have a wealth of renewable energy know-how and world beating ability to innovate. We have an abundance of clean energy resources and the ingenuity to deliver the clean technologies that the world wants.
The former UK Climate Change Ambassador John Ashton recently warned the UK Government that it would be left behind if it didn’t move swiftly to a low carbon economy. The world’s most dynamic economies, he cautioned, are those that are successfully harnessing the potential of low-carbon growth to drive innovation, modernise infrastructure and reduce vulnerability to oil and other price shocks.
Yet, Gerry Brownlee wants to spend $12.3 Billion on building more roads on top of his deepwater oil drilling legacy.
So with the present Government doing such a bad job, I ask myself what would the main opposition party do differently? And sadly the answer right now is that I just don’t know. A few days ago, Labour’s David Cunliffe wrote a piece stating that Labour is desperately worried about New Zealand’s economic decline and that they had a vision for a clean green clever future with sustainable economic growth. Good, I thought, that’s more like it.
But then, on the same day I read Damian O’Connor’s piece calling for more mining!
They can’t have it both ways. New Zealand needs a coherent plan for moving the whole country forward and ensuring our future prosperity.
Which takes me back to the issue of selling our state owned assets.
Some of companies like Might River Power and Meridian could be the bedrock of a cleaner economy – our ability to move towards a smarter, safer way of powering our homes and businesses without polluting our air and our land. They are the incubators of renewable energy expertise and the developers of cutting edge technologies that a changing world is demanding.
And they are ours.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again now, cashing in on our profitable power houses for short term gain is reckless – some might say fiscal incompetence. It cuts off a vital and hard won financial lifeline, and it short circuits our ability to determine the type of energy future we want.
There is a global clean energy race underway. And we have spent a generation perfecting a racing car. Why would we then go and sell the engine?
To sign the petition to Keep Our Assets, click here to download a copy, sign your name, get a few friends to sign it too, and send it in to be counted.