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Refinery closure a disaster on every level

22 November 2021

by Chris Leitch, Leader

Today’s decision by the Refining New Zealand board to shut down the plant and become an importer of overseas refined fuel is a disaster on every conceivable level.

It’s a disaster for our fuel security and puts New Zealand at the mercy of international oil powers or geo-political events and removes completely our ability to source oil from multiple sources across the world or use New Zealand’s own oil should it become necessary.

It’s a disaster for Northland, with the loss of millions of dollars of income for Northland businesses, a loss that will see businesses, particularly in Whangarei being closed.

It’s a disaster for contractors and support businesses that will lose guaranteed regular income from the regular shut-downs and ongoing maintenance work.

It’s a disaster for the country’s skill base with highly skilled staff forced to move offshore, taking with them with the expertise needed to move us forward into producing bio-fuels, advanced jet fuels and other new technology solutions to move away from total reliance on fossil fuels.

It’s a disaster for their families, partners, and children who will be uprooted from schools, other careers and social connections with those overseas moves, often to countries where they will feel less secure, particularly now.

It’s a disaster for the next generation of young people wanting to make a career in the fuel industry as the training they could have got at the refinery will now have to be sought overseas.

It’s a disaster for the potential of Marsden Point to become a green energy hub – a place where advanced new technology options like plastic to fuel, waste to energy, carbon capture, and desalination could have been deployed.

It’s a disaster for the many of the users of the by-products produced by the refining process – Sulphur for fertiliser and industrial use, Carbon Dioxide for the food industry, Bitumen for the roads needed as we expand the country’s infrastructure who will need to import those products.

It’s stupidity from the shareholders who are currently getting double the returns predicted in a Grant Samuels report which said better returns were not likely until 2024.

It’s stupidity from the government who could easily have purchased the shares and turned it into an SOE, without cost to taxpayers, by using the same money creation process the Reserve Bank has been using to buy $54 billion in government bonds off rich investors, banks and speculators.

It’s time for the government to step up and retain the expertise of the existing staff, contractors and support businesses, keep that employment and income in Northland, ensure a greater level of fuel security and provide a base to develop alternative fuels like hydrogen, bio-fuel, and ethanol.

The petition, which is still open at will be presented to parliament in the coming days.

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