Wellington to Invercargill: “Small shithole town. Fuck them”

That’s not from the Government, who have agreed to spend $30 million on keeping the Tiwai smelter going at least until 2017.

It’s not from David Farrar at Kiwiblog, who is expresses his disappointment relatively reasonably.

Rio Tinto screws taxpayers for $30 million

I’ve got no problem with the pricing agreement between Meridian and Rio Tinto, as that is a commercial contract.

But bloody annoyed they screwed $30 million from the taxpayers as a subsidy. I think the Government shouldn’t have given them a cent. If the smelter closes, so be it. It is not the job of taxpayers to subsidise unprofitable industries.

I can understand that from an ideological point of view and have some sympathy for Farrar’s sentiments. But Farrar lives and breathes in Wellington.

But most of the other commenters on Kiwiblog are more angry and more blunt. Especially one Wellingtonian, RRM (he lives a bit of a train ride out of Wellington but works in the capital).

I commented at Kiwiblog:

Don’t forget that Bill English is Clutha/Southland MP – and he will be (or should be) well aware of the growing anger in the south over jobs being moved north and the amount of money being spent of things in the North, especially Christchurch (much of that is understandable) but particularly Auckland.

If Tiwai closed English may not want to venture south, there would be a huge outpouring of angst and anger.

Then an outburst comes from RRM:

Huge?

Population of Invercargill = 53,000 according to Google.

It’s no secret that it’s a small shithole town at the arse end of the world, with limited employment opportunities, it’s always been that.

The aluminium smelter is a lucky score for them but by rights it should be nothing more than a service centre for the dairy farmers and a few fishing boats.

You’d have to be mad to move there. mad, or retired.

Fuck them.

I replied: RRM – that’s pretty much the Wellington attitude that many down here presume. Perhaps you should start building a lot more windmills. And hope that cold says aren’t calm.

RRM:

When you say it like that, I realise how selfish I’m being. OF COURSE I should continue to subsidise the lifestyle of Invercargill people. If they want to be basically morally equivalent to beneficiaries or prison inmates, let’s formalise that with a cheque for thirty million dollars.

There, now we own you, you mangy Catholic Scots dogs. Show us a little highland fling now. Go on.

That’s from someone who’s livelihood is in a city that is far more supported by Government spending than any other. Who commutes to work on Government subsidised transport.

And from the thumbs up responses, his views are shared by others from the north.

No wonder the South is getting very annoyed at the gutting of the provinces. Just this wek sightly to the north Dunedin mayor has called for a summit over the announcement the agricultural research in the south (centred at Invermay) is going to be moved north.

Unemployment surges

Southland’s unemployment rate has increased by more than 50 per cent from the March quarter to the June quarter, new figures show.

Invercargill Deputy Mayor Darren Ludlow said the increase in unemployment was a disturbing trend and reflected the flow-on effects of job losses at the Tiwai Pt aluminium smelter.

Southland businesses continued to struggle after the global financial crisis, he said.

It’s hard enough with the downsizing of the Tiwai workforce.

Slightly further north:

Otago unemployment up 37% on year ago

As Otago struggles with layoffs and reduced hours for manufacturing workers, the region’s unemployment rate continues to climb, rising 37% in the year to June.

“Small shithole town. Fuck them.”

And there’s a common feeling that this is how Wellington views the south in general – as well as other regions like the west Coast, the East Coast and Northland.

And they wonder why agriculture and horticulture has trouble attacking New Zealanders to work down here.

If Tiwai closed there would be a huge outpouring of angst and anger from the south. And the frustration and annoyance is growing regardless. The Tiwai news is a relief, but just a pause in the growing concern.

Southerners are already murmuring about politics – see Call for South to form own party. Will they get annoyed enough with Wellington to say “Big shithole Parliament. Fuck them!”

Labour’s conflicting priorities with Tiwai

National are in a difficult position on Tiwai balancing then interests of employment in Southland, the electricity market and asset share sales.

Labour are also in a difficult position as they need to find a position that satifies their anti asset sales campaigning, anti foreign multinational investment, and employment.

In Stuff Labour’s financial spokesperson David Parker is reported as saying:

“The optimal solution is to walk away (from the smelter) and let New Zealand have lower power prices,”

After Labour’s campaigns for Government intervention in saving jobs at KiwiRail and Telecom this is a remarkable statement – the Tiwai smelter supports a workforce of about 3,000, and unlike Telecom employees most of them would have real difficulty finding alternative employment in Southland or New Zealand.

Radio New Zealand has reported David Shearer as saying that  “the Government should have stepped in earlier” and been “more hands on”.

He wasn’t clear whether that meant more hands on to walk away from the smelter and the jobs, or more hands on to do a subsidised deal with Rio Tinto on power.

So this leaves Labour in a conflicted and vague position.

Is their anti asset sales campaign more important to them than the Tiwai smelter and thousands of jobs?