01 July 2010

Mines, railway or jobs

I just had to comment on this.

Green MP Catherine Delahunty is waging war against Nightcaps, a small town in Southland I have long been aware of, as it is the locality of a collection of lignite mines. Well it isn't the town, but the mines she hates.

There is some local concern about the pollution arising from the mines, which have existed in one form or another for over a century. The mining is carried out by two companies. One is Australian (boo hiss bad) which she mentions as "Eastern Corporation of Australia", the other she doesn't mention is state-owned Solid Energy.

Now let's be fair here, if the mines closed, then the town would be a shadow of its current self. Jobs would be lost, and people would have to relocate (although Catherine would probably want a generous welfare state to keep people living there off the taxpayers' back).

What she neglects to mention is that the government COULD actually cut back the mining there rather easily. Solid Energy is the obvious first target. Presumably the Greens would close the company down.

However a less visible target is Kiwirail. You see most of the mined lignite leaves Nightcaps on a railway branch line, which has a daily coal train. The line is the last railway branch line in Southland (other than that there is the Main South Line running from Dunedin to Invercargill and onto Bluff), and if it was being run commercially it would probably face closure. Unless, of course, the mining companies would pay commercial rates for freighting the coal (they did under privatisation, but the line needs bridge and track replacement as it has not had serious renewals since it was built).

Yet with Kiwirail now state owned and subsidised, a policy endorsed and cheered on by the Greens, it effectively subsidises the mining operations they despise.

On top of that the mine she talks about is apparently on local authority land. Presumably she believes in empowered local government, yet Southland District Council doesn't do what she likes

So one state intervention - propping up a railway, is having results (keeping open some mines) that those who PROMOTE state intervention, despise.

So what will it be Catherine?

Keep subsidising the railway?
Keep local people employed in mining and supporting those employed?
Let local authorities continue to own land used for purposes you don't like?
Close the mine and the town?

What a choice for those addicted to planning the world around them.

What would I do?

1. Run the railway commercially or offer it to the mining companies to buy if it is that important to them.
2. Enable the property owners of Nightcaps (and across New Zealand) to enforce property rights against noxious levels of trespass of gases (smoke) and dust.
3. Tell the local authority to sell the land (as it should with any surplus land).
4. Leave the mining companies to do as they wish.


Jeremy Harris said...

Might just be me but the link doesn't seem to be working...

StephenR said...

What's stopping point 2 from happening?

Shane Pleasance said...

Greens blog appears down. Wind must've stopped blowing.