I don't know how many times I have heard about the imminent demise of the Tiwai Point smelter and it generally occurs at the time that their power agreement needs to be renegotiated or the ETS threatens profits. Even our local MP Eric Roy has questioned the sincerity of their claims that their profitability is under threat and suggests that it is "a case of brinkmanship from the multinational commodities giant".
One of the roles of government is to protect our country from exploitation by powerful multinationals and ensure we maintain sovereignty over our resources. While such companies provide useful capital and employment we must always make sure the cost of the relationship does not outweigh the benefits. When one considers the resources that we have made available to the smelter and the supporting infrastructure that we continue to maintain (at tax payer cost), do we really get a good return from our ongoing investment?
The smelter has averaged around $1 billion a year in export income and given the quality of the aluminum being produced and the efficiency of the plant, any downturn has generally been followed by a strong recovery. When Rio Tinto suggests it is considering withdrawing its $200,000 support to the Kakapo Recovery Programme it is stooping to an appalling level of manipulation to gain public sympathy.
Jeanette Fitzsimons has some experience of the way Rio Tinto operates and her Herald opinion piece provides some alternatives if the government is prepared to stand its ground.