New Zealand First's devilish masterplan to buy a seat in the Far North by snatching Auckland's port without compensation and gifting it to voters living around the Marsden Point oil refinery was officially released last week.
It coincided with the airing on free TV of the chilling docudrama about the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown disaster.
Two tales of politicians running amok. At Chernobyl, the heroic professor who saved vast swathes of Europe from nuclear contamination, was rendered a non-person, for daring to blame the State. Here, one of the cheerleaders for shifting the port was busy denouncing critics as "saboteurs"!
As for Shane Jones, the Minister for Confiscation, he was temporarily silent, lying in a hospital bed suffering from "exhaustion."
But not before pumping out a statement claiming the port was "no longer viable."
This followed months of his sniping and threatening anyone who dared criticise the plan. A prime target was Ports of Auckland CEO Tony Gibson, who he labelled a "recreant" who had gone "totally renegade."
No doubt Gibson pointing out that "over the past five years we've earned a quarter of a billion dollars for the city" didn't help Jones' equilibrium. But it helps explains why the carrions are circling.
The most outrageously unNew Zealand aspect of the plan is that Aucklanders will not be compensated if Government seizes the ratepayer-owned operation and ships it north.
The report makes this crystal clear. Summarising the financial implications of this confiscation in a Q & A section, it asks "What needs to happen" and replies "Encourage port owners to cooperate in New Zealand's best interests OR legislate." Under the heading "Who Pays?" the answer is "No cost."
Welcome to the Soviet Republic of New Zealand.
No wonder Mayor Phil Goff is jumping up and down. Along with a parade of former Auckland civic leaders, from across the political spectrum, Les Mills, Barry Curtis, Mike Lee, David Hay, Judith Bassett, John Banks, Barry Curtis, together attacking the proposed "expropriation of a valuable commercial asset by the central government, motivated evidently by coalition politics."
The "independent" panel's justification is that they're doing it for Auckland's own good.
That by stealing our port company and leaving a 77 hectare swathe of vacant wharf space we'll be able to make a much larger return on capital from other uses. They're vague about what they might be, instead engaging in the traditional big picture fantasies about cultural centres, parks, eateries, and of course the blessed stadium – most of which are not income earning propositions.
The report picks up on the results of the Colmar Brunton survey commissioned during the process to assess Aucklanders desires for the land if the port goes.
What it doesn't highlight is that the public are dead against replacing port activity with income-earning investments. Only 3 per cent back commercial development, and 8 per cent agree to affordable housing and apartments.
What we do support echoes the results of a similar exercise 20 years ago when the old Post Office was about to be converted into the main train station. Then as now, the pixie dust came out and up popped a wish list of ferris wheels, swimming baths, parks and of Queen St below Shortland St, transmogrified into a gondola-filled canal.
Little has changed. Top of the latest list on 22 per cent is "more green space," with another 15 per cent wanting "more public spaces." Close behind is a stadium, and restaurants and bars. Most are an ongoing drain on the public purse, not the money-fountain of the report writers dreams.
The most ridiculous claim is that the port "only has 10 years of operational life remaining." And then what? Does it do a Chernobyl and self-destruct in a cloud of toxic dust?
Of course not. In this capitalist economy of ours, or so I'm told, in such circumstances, the sainted market magically directs the overflow elsewhere. Tauranga perhaps. Or even the new Jonestown up North.
As the claims and language become more extravagant and silly, the proponents risk confirming their laughing stock status. But so too, does the Labour Party, their senior Government coalition partner, for humouring them.