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Strategic blunder

Written By: - Date published: 8:20 am, March 6th, 2013 - 40 comments
Categories: energy, national, Privatisation, sustainability - Tags: , , ,

Amidst the froth of predatory “excitement” about the sale of our power generation assets, it was refreshing to read in The Herald yesterday a single lone voice who was thinking long term. Thank you Wayne Cartwright:

Wayne Cartwright: Asset sale is ‘strategic blunder’

The Government’s plan to sell publicly owned hydro-energy resources is a huge strategic blunder. This is not due to the objections raised so far, such as worries about the public-private ownership model or transgression of Maori water rights. The reason is arguably much more important than both of these concerns.

The Government has grossly underestimated the value of hydro-energy assets to New Zealand citizens. The assets are likely to be worth at least double the amount the Government is prepared to accept. This is because the valuations have apparently ignored the implications of clear signals that global energy costs and prices will increase greatly and permanently within the next 7 to 10 years. …

New Zealand’s distinctive energy endowment provides us with the huge future benefit of already providing the high proportion of moderate-cost and renewable energy sources that most other countries, far more dependent on fossil fuels, will struggle to achieve. This means our capacity for hydro and geothermal electricity generation has remarkably high future value. These endowments are truly sovereign strategic assets. They have a very high holding value arising from future strategic opportunities and applications that will emerge for New Zealand if ownership of them is retained.

It seems this high holding value has not been understood either by the generating companies or by the Government and its advisers. This appears to be because the mainstream traditional commercial valuation techniques consider only current and projected electricity prices. The value of strategic holding opportunities is ignored … and underestimates the value of the asset. …

Government’s hydro asset sales strategy is inept because it is blind to the future global energy situation. The strategy is extraordinarily naive and demonstrates both an alarming absence of strategic common sense and a lack of understanding of future economic realities. It squanders a resource that has huge future value to the nation. Implementation of it should be stopped pending proper development of a strategic holding plan.

Dr Wayne Cartwright is a strategy consultant and retired Professor at the University of Auckland Business School.


I don’t know whether the Nat government doesn’t understand this, or simply doesn’t care. But once again we have a classic case of stupid short-term thinking stuffing our long term prospects. It has happened far too many times in this country.


40 comments on “Strategic blunder”

  1. Cartwright’s analysis is clear and compelling.

    There are two possible reasons for national’s strategic blunder:

    1. They are unable to look further than three years into the future.
    2. They want to set in stone the privilege that their supporters already enjoy.

    Either way the decision sucks.

    And having my tax dollars being spent on high quality propaganda to persuade me what a good decision it is really sucks.

  2. marsman 2

    My guess is that John Key and his bankster mates are fully aware of the future value of these assets and that is why they want to make sure that by then the assets will be in the hands of the banksters so they can reap the huge benefits.

    • Matthew 2.1

      This. He knows exactly how much money there is in clean energy, & he is determined that him & his mates make that money for themselves.
      These sales have the ability to bankrupt New Zealand, & he couldnt give a rats ass.

    • Tom Gould 2.2

      Indeed, and once the world works out ‘plug-in’ cars, these renewable power generators will be hugely valuable. The oil barons will be in like dogs. Yet again, Key is selling us all down the river. This guy described what the Tories are doing as a ‘massive wealth transfer’. Not that you will see that reported. The chooks are too mesmerised by the website crashing, which in their simple minds means the sale is enormously popular, and thus a great thing for ordinary Kiwis and the nation. Idiots.

    • muzza 2.3

      Couple of things

      1: This is not a straegic blunder at all!

      2: Its not about money, its about making sure that NZ, through the privitzation of life supporting systems, is not able to fend for itself.

      Debt has ensured that the towns, cities and country, are now on a one way journey, it can’t be stopped, because people won’t accept what this about. – Its about servitude, its about domination!

      Its nothing to do with money, because the same people who want these assets put up for sale OWN the global monetary supply – They are the same entities QE’ing the shit out worlds reserve currency, among others!

      • mickysavage 2.3.1

        It is a strategic blunder if you want to make sure that the state is able to look after everyone and the rich’s existing privilege is not further enhanced.

        Oh wait …

    • SpaceMonkey 2.4

      My thoughts too… National know exactly what they’re doing and who they’re working for.

  3. Colonial Viper 3

    Why are we continuing the meme that the National Government is being short sighted and stupid in their asset sale programme?

    The Tories, their advisors and their consultants know exactly what they are doing. As MS suggests – they are successfully looking after long term interests: their own.

    Again, all respect to the Tories for having the political guts and skill to push forwards relentlessly with a highly unpopular policy, one which directly benefits their core voters at the net disadvantage of the bottom 80% of society. National don’t take their core supporters for granted.

    • Enough is Enough 3.1

      Exactly CV. The Nats look after their supporters and will give them what they promised them. They have been stratgically brilliant if you assess the outcome by what they intended to do when they were voted in.

      Now it is time for Labour and Shearer to stand up with Winston and promise to their supporters what those supporters are demanding. To Nationalise every single asset that National gives away in the next 18 months. It should be done without compensation (beacuse in reality selling them is treason). But if they have to pay then so be it. The long term economic case stands up to purchasing back those shares sold against the will of the people.

      • SpaceMonkey 3.1.1

        They already are… you don’t think the current Labour leadership are working for the people of NZ either to do? They’re waiting in the wings, not unlike National did during Helen Clarke’s Government, for when the people get sick of the incumbent Government. I’m not expecting too much in the way of policy from Labour either… that’s another marker for stooges masquerading as politicians.

      • Wayne 3.1.2

        But is that what most Labour supporters would want (as oppossed to the fringe). I imagine most Labour supporters want some modicum of respect of property rights and the rule of law. And with compensation would Labour voters see this as the best way to spend $5 billion. Supporting higher taxes to say 40 or 45%, or a stronger social policy is not the same as supporting wholesale nationalisation. As a rule Labour voters are not voting for a revolution – but Mana voters might be

        • Enough is Enough

          If Labour supporters dont want that…then why aren’t they voting National

  4. MoiMoi 4

    The Nats need cash for election bribes, it’s as simple as that.

  5. Te Reo Putake 5

    Dr Cartwright was also on checkpoint last night expanding on the stupidity of the sales:


  6. Colonial Viper 6

    I’m looking forwards to Shearer coming out with a far stronger line, promising direct action against asset sales this week.

    Well, I live in hope.

    • The Garner interview was a bit of a train wreck.

      Shearer should have come out and said the following:

      1. He does not want the Kiwi Super fund to own the shares because the Government already does and to change ownership has no beneficial effect whatsoever.
      2. All that would happen is NZ would go from having $23 billion of shares to $18 billion of shares.
      3. And to do the transfer we would have to pay lots of money to merchant bankers and PR shysters.
      4. There will be leakage of money overseas as at least some of the shares will be owned by overseas interests. The balance of payments will worsen,
      5. It is inevitable that directors fees will go up and the company will become more focussed on charging more so that its shareholders are paid dividends.

      • Colonial Viper 6.1.1

        You could do this for a job…wonder why the highly paid Wellington spin merchants can’t put something like this together in an hour.

        • felixviper

          Because they’re under instructions not to go all “opposey” and frighten a national voting middle-aged small businessman who is against almost everything the labour party is supposed to stand for.

          • prism

            Yhe sort of bloke with a KKK mentality except instead of racism he hates everything that smacks of the left.

        • mickysavage

          The funny thing is that I have been with Cunliffe when he has spoken to business groups like Auckland’s commercial lawyers based down town.

          He gave a strong speech full of Labour values.

          He spoke about regulating financial markets, the Government retaining its assets and getting people back to work.

          He finished with:

          While politicians squabble about balancing the government’s books, our ship is in dangerous waters.

          The Labour Party is not your enemy.

          Your enemy is inefficiency, corruption, and the wastage of both public and private wealth.

          Your enemy is a cosy corruption that helps a few friends of the government get very rich at the expense of the community, including most of the business community.

          The three pillars of our survival are investment, innovation and education.

          An educated population that earns decent wages will work in your factories and offices, will buy your products, and invest in your shares.

          Even as we speak, the global crisis deepens. We cannot solve the crisis of the present by repeating the failures of the past.

          New Zealand rose to the challenge of the Great Depression and emerged as a prosperous and functional democracy that was the envy of the world.

          There are no winning sides on a sinking ship. While we squabble on the deck, our situation grows graver every day.

          Our ship cannot sail itself. We can’t wait for the crisis to overwhelm us before we respond.

          A global economic tsunami could sink us. We have to work as a team; rather, we have to work as a crew, remembering that we’re all in this together. We all prosper together or we all sink together.

          The funny thing is that the speech was challenging and offered an alternative direction to a group of people who were doing very well but it was remarkably well received. Challenging ideas are not dangerous but not offering an alternative view is.

          The speech is at http://cunliffe.co.nz/speech-learning-the-lessons-of-history/

    • SpaceMonkey 6.2

      Hell will freeze over before that happens and with the global tempearatures increasing year on year, we could be waiting an awfully long time.

  7. wyndham 7

    As I’ve remarked previously on this site, the modern economy worldwide, runs on ‘energy’.
    Any nation that deliberately sells down such a vital asset is either controlled by the insane or the corrupt.
    Or perhaps Key and Co. really are but pawns themselves and acting on instructions from the IMF ?

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      Yep. Modern civilisation runs on energy.

    • Macro 7.2

      During WW2 the allies invested millions of pounds and 10 of thousands of airman’s lives to do just exactly what National are now doing. Destroying the vital Strategic Asset of Hydro Power Stations. The Allies couldn’t buy them – and then shut them down. But we know what happens when Strategic Assets such as Trans Rail are not owned by the state. Private enterprise just run them into the ground.

      • Wayne 7.2.1

        Has that happened with Contact or Trustpower?

        • Colonial Viper

          Forget Trustpower, they are not a major generator.

          Contact: a wealth pump sucking the life out of NZ communities.

  8. Mary 8

    What I want to know is how Matthew Hooton would wormtongue his way around this one.

    • One Tāne Huna 8.1

      I’d be more interested in knowing exactly who paid him to say it and whether any public money was involved.

  9. tarkwin 9

    Why not buy shares? Anything that doubles in value in seven years sound like a reasonable bet. One would also assume all Labour and Green M.P’s will be happy to sign a pledge saying they will not be buying any shares? If the government sells forty nine percent the fifty one percent they retain will be worth that much again anyway after seven years. Any new Zealander that buys shares will make one hundred percent profit. All sounds O.K to me. This is assuming we take Mr Cartwrights article at face value as most people commenting here seem to.

  10. DropDead 10

    Typical ill-defined and expounded twaddle of a ‘strategy’ consultant.

    • Draco T Bastard 10.1

      That dull witted and meaningless sentence is proof that you’re the type of person who only listens to people who tell you want you want to hear.

  11. Draco T Bastard 11

    But once again we have a classic case of stupid short-term thinking stuffing our long term prospects.

    I’m not even sure that it’s short term thinking.It seems to be long term thinking just in favour of the rich rather than the country. People who get to charge rent forever from an entire country – yeah, that’s long term thinking.

  12. outofbed 12

    I have no problem with the National party selling shares. that is what thet are there for .
    ough people voted for then to do what the fuck they like. We knew that.
    My problem is the Labour party. The Labour party knew what the dangers were and how important it was not to give the bastards a second term, so what did they do faced with such an important task?
    They make Goff leader. Goff who was pretty much unelectable.
    So then what do they do ? When more of cuts and the sales start happening and it is so so important to stop the bastards.
    They stick Shearer in as leader who lets face it is never going to be PM. But we know what will happpen don’t we? A year out from the election or less they will make the unelectable Grant Robertson leader And the tories will sell the air that we breath

    So I don’t blame National they are just being National doing what they do. Blame Labour our only chance of stopping the fuckers

    We probably need a new party on the left or fire up the alliance

    I can’t see why Shearer does not come out with the simple statement that if the referendum comes out against asset sales then a new labour Govment will buy them back for the price paid less any dividends paid and less any sale and buy back costs incurred
    I won’t hold my breath

  13. Lloyd 13

    Have you seen that TV ad? Makes me want to throw something at the TV every time I see it.
    I own a share in those power companies now because they are government owned.

    The natwits want me to give someone money so that I can own something they are stealing from me!

    Should I be reporting stolen goods being advertised ? Who do I call? The police?

    Are the stock brokers and bankers involved acting as fences?

    Any opposition to these sales must tell potential ‘purchasers’ of these stolen shares that the shares will be treated like any other stolen goods and will be handed directly back to the owners (the government) with NO RECOMPENSE. In other words the shares are worthless.

    If potential purchasers are going to lose all their money on the shares they will probably still be prepared to buy because the sort of people who would buy shares under these circumstances are the same sort of people who buy Lotto tickets – they like paying taxes.

  14. geoff 14

    The whole idea of ‘selling’ hydro dams is demented anyway. It’s not like the owner can upsticks and fuck off with a hydro dam.

  15. Yoza 15

    David Farrar/Whaleoil have the right idea- http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2013/03/truth_asks_what_will_labour_do.html#comments – Labour/Greens need to come out and state they will be nationalising the privatised portion of Mighty River Power when they win the next election and they will be paying the absolute minimum in compensation to anyone who has bought shares. It’s not hard.

  16. peterlepaysan 16

    The Nats are ideologists. Do not expect rationality or logic from them.
    Selfish prejudice masquerading as “economics” is their common mantra which I/ we are ok with shafting the rest of you

    Unfortunately to a greater or lesser degree so are the other parties equally guilty

    Any grasp of reality and logic defines the differences between the parties.

    How does one tell the difference between National and Labour?

    The remaining parties are (albeit very useful ) sideshows.

    The NZ Labour Party appears to be on a kamikaze course.

    Welcome to a NZ governed by a parties supported by business interests.

    The rest of us do not matter.

    We are fodder for banks.


    Hooton and Farrar would be delighted that “business” was completely unfettered..

    So would the Mafia, business round table, chamber of commerce and Somali pirates. They are only protecting their own patch and acting in enlightened self interest for the maximisation of profits to their “stake holders/ share holders.

    What the Nats/ labour people do not realise is that by putting a dollar price ticket on something does not correctly values it.

    There are a lot of voters out there who may/probably would have turned out to vote for Labour.at the last two elections. They did not.

    What is Labour doing to rectify this?

    San fairy ann.

    • Colonial Viper 16.1

      What is Labour doing to rectify this?

      Huh? Was there a problem with how the last election was run for Labour???

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