The Maritime Union says the closure of Marsden Point refinery is sending New Zealand on a high risk track at a bad time.
Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Craig Harrison says the closure is a giant step backwards for New Zealand’s energy security.
The announcement by Refining NZ that the refinery will be replaced by a terminal for imported fuel is a major shift in New Zealand’s fuel arrangements, he says.
He says Refining NZ CEO Naomi James needs to provide an iron clad guarantee that fuel supply to New Zealand will not be endangered.
Mr Harrison says the implications for fuel security around New Zealand are very serious, especially for regional economies and the primary sector.
He says outside Auckland, fuel is currently shipped from Marsden Point to ports using New Zealand flagged and crewed vessels, whose future could be in jeopardy, with future supplies possibly delivered to ports by international vessels.
He says the great lesson of the last year has been that relying on international shipping and supply chains is no longer a safe option, especially for small remote markets like New Zealand.
“Just ask any one in any provincial port around New Zealand what the reliability of international shipping services has been in the last year – it has been complete chaos.”
Mr Harrison says there are multiple downsides to the closure decision, including the loss of employment and the loss of essential skills as the workforce moves on.
“We need to be looking at the big picture for New Zealand, not what is most profitable for a privately owned corporation.”
Mr Harrison says the fact that Energy Minister Megan Woods took a paper to Cabinet with a proposal for securing the future of the refinery was a clear indication that closure was a risky strategy.
He says the Government was giving too much credence to the word of a private corporation with its own agenda and interests.
Energy security and supply chain security were now big global issues and the Government should review the decision and work to keep the refinery in operation, says Mr Harrison.
He says the continued existence of the refinery would provide essential security for fuel, as crude oil for refining was obtainable for multiple sources, and would also maintain an important domestic skill base and supply network.