Shakeup looms over Solid Energy troubles

KATE CHAPMAN AND JO MOIR
Last updated 05:00 26/09/2012
Fairfax NZ

Dozens of Spring Creek and Huntly miners marched on Parliament today demanding a second chance from State Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall.

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Heads look set to roll at Solid Energy after the management of Spring Creek coalmine was called into question by distraught miners.

More than 400 jobs are to go at Spring Creek and Huntly East mines and the state-owned company's head office in Christchurch.

About 30 miners marched on Parliament yesterday in a last-ditch effort to save their jobs.

State-Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall ruled out Government intervention and said the job losses were the result of falling coal prices, not National's partial asset sales programme.

Solid Energy has been criticised for overstating future coal prices and failing to control debt levels.

Mr Ryall said the Government would monitor the board's performance. "I think the board will have some additional members over the next few months. I'll leave it at that because we haven't made any decisions."

The job cuts had nothing to do with the part-float of Solid Energy and "everything to do with the collapse of international coal prices".

The asset sales were always a three-to-five-year process, he said.

"I think it's always been considered that Solid Energy would be at the table end of the Government's mixed-ownership model programme."

Spring Creek employee Trevor Bolderson said the company spent $20,000 to shift him from Britain five years ago and he was now probably jobless.

He was stranded in Greymouth, unable to sell his house and not able to move to Australia with a New Zealand work visa. The Government had paid the miners lip service by meeting them yesterday, but had never intended to listen.

"I think it just went in one ear and out the other, to be honest with you. A bit like a subway in Auckland," he said.

"I'm not looking forward to the drive home tomorrow, I'm looking forward to seeing my wife. What I'm going to say to her, God knows."

Miners had worked hard to come up with an economic plan which was ignored by management, who were wasting money "like confetti".

"For a state-owned enterprise to get into the state it has, to the magnitude it has, it staggers belief."

West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O'Connor said it was disingenuous to say the job losses were not a result of the asset sales agenda.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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