Where’s the plan for Southland post-smelter?

Grant Robertson on the shutdown of Tiwai Point and loss of thousands of jobs – ‘too bad, move on’.

Jacinda Ardern on the shutdown:

While Tinto have just announced they will close their Tiwai Point aluminium smelter next year this was a well signalled possibility. The Government response (acceptance of the decision) suggested they were well aware this announcement was coming.

Grant Robertson said Government will support the people and economy of Southland:

The Government will support the Southland economy in the wake of multinational mining company Rio Tinto’s decision to follow through with its long signalled closure of the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter.

“This day has unfortunately been on the cards for some time now, but nevertheless the final decision is a blow to Southland and all those who work at the smelter,” Grant Robertson said.

Stuff: Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt ‘absolutely shattered’ by news of Tiwai Aluminium Smelter closure

Labour list MP Liz Craig, who is based in Invercargill also said she was devastated by the closure news and said her thoughts were with the workers, families, and businesses affected.

Craig acknowledged it will have a huge impact on the Southland economy.

She spoke with prime minister Jacinda Ardern this morning about the impact this will have on Southland.

“I am pleased that [Finance Minister] Grant Robertson has already signalled the Government will support the Southland community in our transition, in areas such as agriculture, aquaculture and manufacturing.’’

Craig has invited Adern and Robertson to visit in Invercargill to discuss how the Government might help support those affected, grow local jobs, and create a sustainable Southland economy.

Ardern visited the smelter when they reopened a fourth potline in December 2018 – that was good news. Will she frobt up when the news is bad? So far she has left it to Robertson, who seems quite relaxed about.

Bernard Hickey: Newsroom: Why is Labour letting Tiwai Pt shut now?

Finance Minister Grant Robertson seemed much more philosophical and accepting of the news when he spoke a couple of hours later. It became clear that both the Government and Rio Tinto had called each others’ bluffs, leaving Southlanders incredulous.

“This is a blow for the people of Southland and I feel for them, but we need to look to the future,” Robertson said.

“There is a certain sense of inevitability about today’s announcement. Rio Tinto have been trying to sell Tiwai Point for about 10 years now,” he said.

The Government is spending $62b to cushion the impact of Covid-19 on the rest of the economy, including handing out over $12 billion to small to medium enterprises to keep often near-minimum wage jobs going for a few weeks.

But it appears unwilling to consider spending a few tens of millions to keep at least 2,600 highly paid jobs going in a region with few other alternatives for such high-wage jobs.

Robertson talked airily on Thursday about the prospects for agriculture and aquaculture, but in reality those jobs will be much lower wage and have yet to be invented.

He has talked repeatedly about his personal desire to avoid the mistakes made during the 1990-91 recession when manufacturing jobs were gutted in the regions and little was done to soften the blow.

The risk for the Government and those remaining high-wage jobs in the regions in the next three months is that the announcement of closures of Tiwai Point (2,600 jobs), Marsden Point (3,500 jobs) and the Glenbrook Steel Mill (3,900 jobs) could potentially all come in the next six months.

The worst recession since 1990-91 could easily be just as damaging for the regions as that one.

So far the Government response has basically been ‘too bad, move on’.

ODT editorial: Post-smelter plan must be readied

Southland does not need woolly promises of help and platitudinous pep talks. It needs a concrete plan to meet and then beat the economic and social destruction left when New Zealand Aluminium Smelters’ closes Tiwai Point.

The looming costs are hinted at in the figures most often pitched as reasons to move heaven and earth to keep the smelter online. Previous estimates suggest it accounts for more than 6% of the region’s GDP, and well over $400million to the region’s economy.

That cash keeps people in work and businesses in profit. It helps people pay their mortgages and their grocery bills, helps them support local schools and pay their sports club subscriptions, and keeps them working in and contributing to the South.

These people, families and communities do not have long to consider the effect of losing the smelter. NZAS will terminate its electricity contract with Meridian Energy in August 2021, when the wind-down is complete.

They have little time to decide what to do next and an uncertain time in which to do it. They need no reminding we face a prolonged pandemic-induced recession, and that finding good work and a strong income may be difficult.

But there has been plenty of time to prepare for the inevitability that Tiwai would be shut down.

There is little time to prepare for a post-smelter future but successive Governments have had the best part of a decade to ensure there was a plan to cope with, and then fill the gap left when Rio Tinto pulled the plug on its regionally and nationally significant operation at Tiwai Point.

Treasury, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Ministry of Social Development officials have had plenty of time, regardless of which parties were in Government, to forge all manner of strategies for a post-smelter future. They, and a succession of politicians, have had years to prepare for the inevitable.

As such, Southlanders have every right to expect Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Finance Minister Grant Robertson to outline robust, detailed plans when they take up Labour Invercargill List MP Liz Craig’s invitation to visit Invercargill and ‘‘discuss how the Government might help us support those affected, grow local jobs and create a sustainable future for the Southland economy’’.

If not, Southlanders have every right to feel let down by a multi-national company and by the governments that saw this coming.

Robertson seems untroubled by the problems faced by Southland.

What about Ardern? I can’t find any response from her on the shutdown announcement. Nothing since her good news PR money handout announcement on Thursday – NZ Herald: Government to bail out councils with $761m water services investment:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a $761 million investment to help councils upgrade “run down” water services across the country.

In a politically charged piece of symbolism, Ardern and Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta chose the site of the water bore found to be the source of the fatal Havelock North campylobacter outbreak in 2016 to make the announcement on Wednesday.

“Investing in water infrastructure is about investing in the health of New Zealanders.”

Southlanders are New Zealanders. They received very bad news this week. Ardern was nowhere to be seen.

 

Tiwai smelter to shut down next year, Government accepting closure

This is one of those ‘shock but not a surprise announcements – Rio Tinto has announced that they won’t renew their power contract for the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter and will shut down permanently.

Rio Tinto have claimed power prices have been too high for years, negotiated a deal with the Government in 2015 – see Key says Government won’t add to NZ$30 million of support given to Rio Tinto to keep Tiwai Pt open –  but have still been losing money as world power prices have declined.

The Government has said they will support the workers and businesses affected in Southland, but they won’t try to keep the smelter running.

RNZ: Rio Tinto announces plans to close Tiwai Point smelter

Rio Tinto has announced that it will wind down New Zealand Aluminium Smelters, best known as Tiwai Point smelter.

In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange, the company said its strategic review had “shown the business is no longer viable given high energy costs and a challenging outlook for the aluminium industry.”

The company has given Meridian Energy notice to terminate its power contract, which ends in August next year. It expects the wind-down of operations will be done by then.

It said it had had discussions with interested parties but could not secure a power contract that would have kept the smelter competitive and profitable.

The smelter’s viability has been questioned for much of the past decade as it grappled with weak metal prices, power costs, and over capacity which has seen smelters closed around the world.

It employs about 1000 people directly and creates a further 1600 indirect jobs in Southland. The smelter is owned by Rio Tinto and Japan’s Sumitomo Chemical Co.

NZ Aluminium Smelters chief executive Stu Hamilton told Morning Report they were on a path to winding down operations.

“We don’t think there’s a deal that can be done that will deliver competitively-priced power to the smelter which is necessary for it to be sustainable.

“We do believe that nothing has been left on the table but if we’re mistaken then the window is still available for a deal to be put on the table but the window for that is closing fast now that we have terminated our electricity contract with Meridian.

It looks like they aren’t mistaken, the Government seems to be not interested in trying to rescue the situation. Their official response shows they intend to deal with the closure rather than try to prevent it: Government will support the people and economy of Southland

The Government will support the Southland economy in the wake of multinational mining company Rio Tinto’s decision to follow through with its long signalled closure of the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter.

“This day has unfortunately been on the cards for some time now, but nevertheless the final decision is a blow to Southland and all those who work at the smelter,” Grant Robertson said.

“The smelter supports hundreds of jobs in Southland and the Government will work with the local community to support economic development in the region to help offset this loss.

“Rio Tinto has indicated it wants to work with the Government to support the community during the wind down of the smelter.

“As we have done in Taranaki, we will support a just transition to more job opportunities. We know the strengths of Southland and we want to build on them in areas such as agriculture, aquaculture and manufacturing. There is also an opportunity to support other energy intensive projects like green hydrogen and data centres.

“There is a degree of inevitability to the decision, as Tiwai has been on the market since 2011, and former Prime Minister Bill English told Rio Tinto in 2013 there would be no further taxpayer money provided.

“Since the smelter opened taxpayers have been subsidising Rio Tinto to keep it open, either directly or indirectly through cheaper power, and Emissions Trading Scheme allocations of over $48 million per year. The company has made the decision not to keep operating without further subsidies.”

Not only does the Government seem happy to see the smelter close, they are looking at what opportunities that may bring:

“Rio Tinto’s decision not to extend their generous power contract with Meridian will flow through to the rest of the market,” Megan Woods said.

“It is disappointing that Rio Tinto is deciding to close one of the world’s lowest carbon aluminium smelters, in favour of keeping open coal plants.”

“Eventually it will free up around 13 percent of total power generated in New Zealand which will relieve some pressure to build new generation. The increased supply will also have a positive impact on prices.

“I also want to make clear that the Government expects Rio Tinto to meet their obligations for clean-up of the site (an estimated $256 million) and do the right thing on the dross,” Megan Woods said.

RNZ: Tiwai smelter closure: A ‘tough day’ for Southland – Grant Robertson

“The message I have for the people of Southland today is the government stands alongside you and with you to start providing new job opportunities in the region.

“This is a very sad day for Southland but there are also opportunities attached to this.”

Not just a tough day, it could be a tough few years if not decade for Southland. It’s hard to see how ‘new opportunities’ will pick up the slack for two and a half thousand jobs, inevitable business losses and the wider family and community impacts.

The union representing workers at the smelter says about 1000 people directly employed by the smelter would be affected, but the decision would also impact on a further estimated 1600 workers in the supply chains.

E tū union said staff were shocked and dismayed and never thought threats to close the plant would ever eventuate.

Negotiator specialist Joe Gallagher said it was not too late to get back around the table, strike a deal, and save jobs.

Sounds like it is too late.

There was a lot of other response.

Contact Says Smelter Closure Is ‘disappointing’

Contact Energy (“Contact”) CEO Mike Fuge said Rio Tinto’s intention to effectively close New Zealand’s Aluminium Smelter (“NZAS”) by giving 14 months’ notice on their electricity contract with Meridian Energy was “very disappointing”.

He said all commercial parties involved in dealing with NZAS, including Contact, had collectively delivered significant cost reductions for electricity. “We’ve all had a strong desire to help secure the financial sustainability of the unique low-carbon smelter at Tiwai, and retain the 1,000 high-paying jobs in Southland, plus the 1,600 contractor and supplier roles.

Contact’s ‘shovel-ready’ Tauhara geothermal power station remained New Zealand’s cheapest and most attractive option for new, renewable, baseload electricity generation, but Mr Fuge said the sensible option was to defer this investment. “Tauhara remains a fantastic project, however it is prudent to press pause for now. We need to factor in the impact of COVID-19 and the potential exit of NZAS and get a clearer picture of demand,” he said.

So that is one ‘shovel-ready’ project that may not happen now.

Rio Tinto Departure Makes Decarbonisation Projects ‘shovel Ready’

Rio Tinto’s smelter, which uses 13 percent of New Zealand’s electricity, is now due to close in August 2021. Greenpeace Executive Director, Dr Russel Norman, says the Tiwai closure will release a huge amount of low-carbon and affordable power back onto the grid.

“The Tiwai closure will mean cheaper power for New Zealand households. It also means there is more clean, renewable energy that can be used to power our cars and industries as we move to a zero carbon economy.

“This will cut climate emissions out of the transport and industrial sectors, while simultaneously helping to reduce New Zealand’s current account deficit by cutting the billions of dollars we spend on importing oil for the transport sector.

“With a ready supply of clean and affordable hydropower now being made available, the Government should create the conditions needed to increase the number of electric cars, buses and trains.”

Norman also says Rio Tinto’s departure blows any case for new coal, gas or oil development completely out of the water.

Rio Tinto Decision Following Strategic Review Of Tiwai Smelter

Mercury notes Rio Tinto’s announcement to wind-down operations at New Zealand Aluminium Smelters Limited (NZAS) with expected closure in August 2021.

Mercury reiterates previously made statements that it is relatively well placed to respond to the decision to close the smelter, with all of its renewable generation assets in the North Island close to load centres and largely free of major transmission constraints as a consequence of reduced South Island electricity demand.

Tiwai Closure Points To End Of Heavy Industry Under Ardern

“The closure of Tiwai Point signals the end of heavy industry under the Ardern Government,” according to ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Labour is squeezing the life out of the economy. For the past three years, it has made it much more difficult and costly for businesses like Tiwai Point to be productive.

“We have a Wellington-centric government of former student politicians that just doesn’t get how the economy works.

I doubt ACT would support a government subsidy of a foreign owned company.

New Zealand First Disappointed Rio Tinto Playing Games With Southlanders

Australian mining company Rio Tinto is playing games with the people of Southland, says New Zealand First List MP, Mark Patterson, following today’s announcement that Tiwai Point is to close.

“It is unconscionable that despite massive support from New Zealand, multi-billion dollar company Rio Tinto is bailing on Southlanders at the height of an economic crisis,” said Mr Patterson.

“New Zealand First has consistently warned that Rio Tinto would walk away, just as they did in Australia, when it no longer suited them. And with a 14 month timeframe, this looks like Rio Tinto is using local workers to play hard-ball with New Zealand power companies.

Patterson seems to be speaking to people who will be adversely affected by the closure while ignoring that NZ First are a part of the Government that is waving goodbye as Rio Tinto walks away.

The End Of Tiwai Pt Could Open Huge Opportunities For NZ

The announced closure of Tiwai Point is welcome news for the clean energy future of New Zealand, and presents huge opportunities in areas such as electrifying transport and developing new, high-tech industries, Coal Action Network Aotearoa said today.

Provided this is not a negotiating tactic, Tiwai’s shutdown should see the closing of the country’s only coal-fired power station at Huntly, which Meridian persuaded Genesis to keep it open as part of the deal it did with Rio Tinto in 2016.

Once the smelter is closed, New Zealand’s emissions will drop by upwards of 1.5 million tonnes a year, emissions the taxpayer has been subsidising NZ Aluminium Smelters for.

“We now have a massive opportunity to look at where and how we will use the renewable energy that will be freed up: we could electrify the South Island’s rail network, and make huge steps toward electric transport,” said CANA’s Rosemary Penwarden.

Union Calls For Just Transition For Workers As Smelter To Close

E tū union is calling for a ‘Just Transition’ for workers in the wake of Rio Tinto’s announcement it will be closing its smelter at Tiwai Point.

“This is a significant employer and this company is at the heart of its community. A closure will affect the entire supply chain, including other local suppliers,” he says.

Joe says the Government needs to consider a similar approach to that used in Taranaki with the Taranaki 2050 Roadmap, to ensure a Just Transition takes place.

I wonder if the E tū union supports the Labour led government letting Tiwai close:  Affiliations – E tū is affiliated to the New Zealand Labour Party.

Infracom To Factor Tiwai Closure In Infrastructure Strategy

Today’s announcement of the potential closure of the Tiwai aluminium smelter by Rio Tinto has very significant implications for the economy and energy market. This will be a key consideration in Infracom’s thinking as it develops New Zealand’s 30 year Infrastructure Strategy.

Tiwai Point Closure – Expert Reaction

Associate Professor Nicola Gaston, Co-director, MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology:

“The closure of Tiwai Point is first and foremost a loss for the people of Southland who will be impacted by the loss of thousands of jobs at an awful time. However, it is not a huge surprise, on some level: Rio Tinto has threatened to pull out previously, repeatedly, in negotiating the cost of the electricity supply with Government, and the discussion about what New Zealand should do with the energy is not new.

Jeanette Fitzsimons (former Green Party leader) pointed out late last year that ETS subsidies for the smelter would total a billion dollars by 2030, and that we should consider better uses for the 13 per cent of our electricity supply, all of it renewable.

“Many of my colleagues at the MacDiarmid Institute are deeply passionate about this being the right time to invest in new tech to make the most of our renewable energy advantages in New Zealand – whether this is a form of energy storage, which could include green hydrogen generation, or something even more ambitious, such as using the energy for manufacture of other components needed for a zero carbon economy, such as solar panels – these options exist, but require a government-led business case to be developed.

Dr Anna Berka, Lecturer in Management, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Massey University:

“Rio Tinto has flagged potential closure for some years. The current crisis has clearly pushed it over the edge. Previous governments went far to make it comfortable here; it was granted some of the lowest electricity prices, reportedly below cost. In return, Rio Tinto has been obstructive to emissions pricing, and by all indications seems to have abused our resource consent process as well. As the largest consumer of electricity in the country, its closure will have ripple effects on the entire energy sector, resulting in temporary surplus capacity – and resulting in downwards pressure on market prices, as well as very likely reducing the viability of new generation capacity currently under development.

Professor Emeritus Ralph Sims, Sustainable Energy and Climate Mitigation, Massey University:

“Few countries have surplus power generation available to meet the present electricity demand as will be the case in New Zealand once the Tiwai Point smelter starts phasing out its high electricity-consuming aluminium potlines over the next year or two.

“We know there will be growing demand over the next decade or two for electricity, especially for electric vehicle charging and industrial and commercial heating by companies, schools etc., looking to displace coal with electricity.

“This will also further reduce the combustion of gas and coal used for power generation and therefore help lower the total carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation.

“So, in a perfect world, closing Tiwai Point should theoretically result in greater shares of renewable electricity, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and cheaper electricity prices for all New Zealanders.

“However, it’s not that easy.

“So, will New Zealand electricity consumers reap the economic and environmental benefits of having cheaper hydro power suddenly becoming available once the smelter starts winding down?

“I have my doubts.”

Associate Professor Nirmal Nair, Department of Electrical, Computer and Software Engineering, University of Auckland:

“What the likely energy consequences are, which we as a country need to prepare for, is based on how this news is going to play out in the next two to 10 years or so.

“If the demand destruction of electricity load happens in the next two to three years, we will need to spend some dollars to strengthen the transmission assets there to port the electricity to North Island.”

Adjunct Professor Harvey Weake, Faculty of Engineering, University of Auckland:

“I guess the industry has been bracing for this announcement for some time. Given the plant is close to 50 years old, that is a pretty good innings for such a plant and without a major capital injection to maintain its competitiveness, it was just a matter of time. Newer plants are just more energy efficient.

“Short-term economic losses from the loss of Tiwai will be primarily through the loss of local fixed costs from that industry, but given it is foreign held, the impact to New Zealand’s economy will be pretty modest given it wasn’t projected to make significant profits anytime soon.”

Professor Sally Brooker, Department of Chemistry, University of Otago:

“New Zealand should make the most of that electricity for producing green products (e.g., hydrogen, ammonia, silica for PVs, and/or even keep making super green aluminium on a smaller scale as Jeanette Fitzsimmons suggested in an earlier Spinoff article), and use the Regional Development Fund or COVID-19 budget to develop the necessary plant at Tiwai. It is a great site to do so. And it would keep skilled jobs in Southland as, without the smelter, the region will be absolutely hammered by the job losses.

“New Zealand needs to be investing heavily in further developing green energy generation and use, as part of our current government spending/investment. We could be world leaders in going completely to green energy (including transport – electricity, green hydrogen etc), as the world looks to respond to global climate change. We start from such a strong position with our high percentage of green electricity.”

We will see over the next few days or weeks whether the Government was preparing for this and has plans for alternative use of the Manapouri power, and has alternative job and business opportunities for Southland. The Government must have known the closure of Tiwai was likely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trade wars on again in response to Trump’s interventionism

It’;s hard to keep up with Donald Trump’s varying positions on a number of issues, but it looks like trade wards are back on after he imposed tariffs in steel and aluminium imports.It’s too soon to tell what this may escalate into, but the signs look ominous.

Reuters: U.S. isolated at G7 meeting as tariffs prompt retaliation

U.S. President Donald Trump told Canada and the European Union on Friday to do more to bring down their trade surpluses, a day after hitting them and Mexico with import tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Trump castigated Canada, a top U.S. trade partner and ally, in a tweet on Friday morning, saying it had treated U.S. farmers “very poorly for a very long period of time.”

“Highly restrictive on Trade! They must open their markets and take down their trade barriers! They report a really high surplus on trade with us,” he wrote.

Trump also told French President Emmanuel Macron of the need to “rebalance trade with Europe,” the White House said.

The strong words followed swift responses to the tariffs by Canada, Mexico and the EU, which all plan to retaliate with levies on billions of dollars of U.S. goods, including orange juice, whiskey, blue jeans and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

ODT: Trade war repercussions likely

By later today,  or early tomorrow, it will be known the extent to which Europe, Canada and Mexico will go to counter the United States’ tariffs.

Canada and Mexico have made early moves but there are suggestions more barriers will be put in place for US exports.

US President Donald Trump unilaterally imposed sweeping tariffs on  steel and aluminium imports from the European Union, and its Nafta trading partners Canada and Mexico.

European commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker is promising to have retaliatory measures in place. In a furious address to a conference, Mr Juncker was threatening like for like, enough to make free-trade countries like New Zealand shudder.

The move is likely to have an immediate impact on global trade in steel and aluminium, particularly between the US and Canada, the largest supplier of imported steel to the US.

A meeting of the Group of Seven, in Canada, was taken by surprise by the announcement. Concern about Mr Trump’s hardening approach to trade dominated the discussion panel as top policy makers from the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Canada gathered in the alpine village of Whistler, British Columbia, Canada.

There is growing concern trade wars may turn into real wars — particularly with the ongoing tit-for-tat squabble between China and the US.

On Tuesday, the White House pledged to slap an additional 25% tariff on a long list of Chinese products, including metals. Within hours Beijing retaliated with the promise to lift levies on $US50 billion worth of US imports by 25%. The Chinese list includes soybeans, automobiles, chemicals and aircraft. In response, Mr Trump threatened an additional $US100 billion in tariffs against China.

Global supply chains are at risk from the actions being initiated by Mr Trump and, because of his powerful position and erratic behaviour, no-one knows for sure how this will play out.

Mr Trump’s posturing is damaging to not only global trade. He is facing a backlash from some of his Republican allies, who are now worrying about surviving midterm elections.

The bigger fear over the current conflict is how escalating retaliatory tariffs may undermine institutions such as the World Trade Organisation, which have underpinned the world trading system since the aftermath of World War 2 and have prevented the outbreak of major trade wars.

Reuters:

Trump’s tariffs on Washington’s closest allies also drew condemnation at home from Republican lawmakers and the country’s main business lobbying group and sent a chill through financial markets.

The US markets keep bouncing around:

This year they have been as erratic as Trump, which is no coincidence.

While steel and aluminium tariffs may help protect some US industries they are likely to raise prices on many products that use steel and aluminium.

These particular tariffs aren’t likely to impact greatly on New Zealand, but if it escalates into a wider trade war then we are likely to get tossed around in the storm.

Meanwhile Trump is trying to prop up some big business friends: Trump orders Energy Department to help ailing coal, nuclear plants

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday directed Energy Secretary Rick Perry to take emergency steps to keep at-risk coal and nuclear plants running, the White House announced.

Under the directive, Perry would require grid operators to buy electricity from ailing nuclear and coal-fired power plants to keep them from being shuttered.

Trump is an erratic interventionist.

We could print money, but can’t print markets

In a post on interest.co.nz

Bernard Hickey wonders why New Zealand is not printing money and thinks we are being severely disadvantaged by not following the crowd.

The New Zealand dollar seems set to rise towards US$1 if the current trends continue.

He then went on to explain what is happening around the world, including:

  • The US Federal Reserve announced an essentially unlimited plan for money printing on Friday morning.
  • Economists are now expecting the Reserve Bank of Australia will cut its interest rates through 2013.
  • This month the European Central Bank unveiled its own programme of unlimited bond buying.
  • The Bank of Japan, which has been printing and stimulating with 0% interest rates for almost 20 years, is considering fresh money printing to try to drag its yen lower.
  • The Swiss National Bank has been printing francs in unlimited fashion for months to cap a rise in its currency against the euro.
  • The People’s Bank of China is also on the verge of its own fresh stimulus.

In the meantime New Zealand doesn’t even fiddle while the world’s economies burn money like it’s going out of fashion.

Yet we are standing aside from this giant game of musical chairs and scratching our chins, wondering why the world is so unfair. We point to the skies and say there is nothing we can do about this bad economic weather.

Outgoing Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard reiterated in his valedictory news conference and parliamentary appearance that there was nothing New Zealand could do about these acts of economic gods.

And our manufacturing sector shows signs of more strain.

All this chin-scratching and finger waving in the air is having very real world consequences. In recent weeks we have seen hundreds of job losses at Tiwai Point, Spring Creek, Huntly, Kawerau and at a fish processing plant in Tauranga. The Reserve Bank’s own Monetary Policy Report noted a slump in manufacturing, particularly the import-competing type in the last year.

I guess we could print more money.

But we can’t print more aluminium, coal or newsprint markets. I put that to Bernard on Twitter (where he was discussing the issue with Fran O’Sullivan).

As yet he hasn’t responded.