Opposition politicians have been amply supplied with political ammunition in recent days, while the ranks of the unemployed are swelled - or soon will be - by staff cuts in enterprises controlled by the Government.
First, KiwiRail confirmed it would cut 158 infrastructure and engineering jobs by the end of October (more than 70 workers have taken voluntary redundancy but “mandatory” redundancies were described as unavoidable).
Then Solid Energy confirmed the mothballing of its Spring Creek mine near Greymouth, a halt to further development of its Huntly East mine, and plans to lop corporate staff numbers. It aims to cut around 440 people, about a quarter of its workforce, because of a slump in global coal prices.
The Spring Creek mothballing had been foreshadowed a week or so ago, when Green Party MP Kevin Hague described the news as a devastating blow to the West Coast economy and local community (which undoubtedly it is).
Mr Hague linked the layoffs with asset sales. If the Government wasn't so worried about getting the best price from buyers for Solid Energy, the pressure to close the mine would be less.
More significantly, he said the Green Party was OK with existing mines continuing, but only to allow time for the careful planning and transitioning to new jobs and new technologies. More emphatically, it opposed development of new coalmines, because of their impact on the environment and climate change.
That rankled with Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce. He has called on objectors to Bathurst Resources' Escarpment Mine project, near Westport, to withdraw their court action. This is an open-cast mining project, he pointed out, ready right now to provide 225 jobs and incomes for workers and their families on the West Coast. Resource consents were granted more than a year ago.
Development has been stalled by litigation in the Environment Court, the High Court and the Court of Appeal.
Mr Joyce's point was that opposition MPs couldn't complain about job losses while they fail to support initiatives to create jobs like those they are asking for. In this case, Labour does not oppose the Bathurst Resources project. But the point certainly should strike a nerve with the Greens.
- © Fairfax NZ News