So where’s the media explosion?

Carefully, the first media release aired at Christchurch yesterday. Since Lyttelton Port Company Ltd (LPC) is a listed company, of course a letter had already been circulated to LPC shareholders.

### stuff.co.nz Last updated 12:54 19/02/2010
Lyttelton Port committed to merger talks
By Alan Wood – BusinessDay.co.nz
Lyttelton Port of Christchurch has committed to “detailed negotiations” on a merger opportunity with its main South Island rival Port Otago. The two ports have issued a joint statement saying merger negotiations will continue with the ports having started the potential merger process more than a year ago. Both companies are treating this project with the utmost urgency.
Read more

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The (lapdog) ODT announcement followed – not page 1 material, if you sneezed you missed it in today’s print edition.

### ODT Online Fri, 19 Feb 2010
Lyttelton and Otago ports move merger talks to next stage
Lyttelton Port Company Ltd (LPC) and Port of Otago Ltd (POL) are moving to the next phase of merger talks. “The boards of Lyttelton Port Company Ltd and Port of Otago Ltd have agreed that continuing to work towards a potential operational merger is warranted,” the companies said in a joint statement. The next stage involves talks on the content of a report prepared by Antipodes Capital as part of the first stage of the project. The structure being considered involves the legal separation of the infrastructure assets from the operations and commercial activities of each port.
Read more

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Yep, sounds like ‘don’t encourage difficult questions from the natives’ – the shareholders, the exporters, the unions et al – noooo, because as everyone knows decisions on the merger, or anything like this in corporate infrastructural scale, have been made months ago. The ports merger is a fait accompli.

Only now are we starting to see the stage-managed PR rollout/suppression tactics (yawn), designed to keep corporate lids down on all sorts of things, many of them legal and financial.

What happens to POL’s local executive and administration? Hear the hark of Christchurch for another of our corporate head offices (POL).

Will the Otago Southland region be well served by the ports merger?

Where are the independent critical analyses from business leaders and merchants in response? Hello, anyone home at the Otago Daily Times? How much is this sinking or benefitting our region?

Does Fonterra see advantages or disadvantages?

And what of the international shipping conglomerates and the ways they will want to operate in future? It’s not enough just to talk about the next generation of large boats – many of these will be ‘slower’ vessels, how will our fresh produce get to significant international markets in perfect condition to obtain premium prices? We can’t afford slow boats to China or anywhere else. Is it feasible to use air freighting again, at scale?

It was bad enough that people sold their souls to dairy conversions in the South through greed and ugly (now nonforthcoming) bank lending. What does losing local control of our major deep-water port mean to the future of Otago Southland?

Somebody had better start explaining things fast, from every conceivable hard-arsed angle.

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

11 Comments

Filed under Economics, Geography, Politics, Project management

11 responses to “So where’s the media explosion?

  1. kate

    Interesting questions you pose Elizabeth. I still need to get my head around it all. But the role of media itself is a great debate to be had – especially in light of two articles currently in the ODT.

    First we have the OUSA trying to invoke a contract to film events which gives editorial rights to the OUSA – imagine OUSA protests in the 70s if anyone else had suggested that. All quite amusing and not freedom of speech orientated at all. Wonder what Critic will make of it. And it has been criticised by most media organisations.

    Yet the same media organisations have all run something on a press statement issued/ managed by Tiger Woods to which only some people were invited and at which there were no questions. If one refuses to accept the OUSA contract, shouldn’t they equally refuse to cover the Tiger Woods announcement? Isn’t all about who manage the media, and as soon as they let themselves be managed they have lost the absolute need for good press, independence and neutrality.

    Having said all that, media have a hard role to play – everyone wants it for free, but it costs money to run decent news.

    The role for Radio NZ to grow its finances might be, to be the news source for more radio stations/ media on certain issues.

    Sorry I don’t think I have done the Port topic justice!

    • Elizabeth

      All I’m saying is: People, use social media to map who said what leading up to the local body elections, and beyond. Make Dunedin more interesting, instantly!!

      There’s no excuse with SM for not knowing who said what or when. Don’t depend on the mainstream news media. Now’s your chance to run your own news. If you want, you can feed it to news media. We already know it works – several of us have been brushing up our skills, message is: use of social media is open to everyone, whether you’re generating news, listening in or spreading it.

      Ports issue has been boiling a while, but this latest stuff is fresh – expect more in mainstream media before long, tied to the company restructurings (including settlements and redundancies), shareholdings etc. There are a few can-openers at work.

  2. Stu

    Hmmm.
    But POL has been driving the merger.
    Which is more vulerable – Lyttleton or POL? You need Lyttleton for coal – what do you NEED Port Chalmers for? And why did Chalmers Properties divest itself of all that land just recently…?

    • Elizabeth

      In a public workshop a couple of years ago, Port Otago Ltd (POL) chief executive Geoff Plunket said it was Chalmer Properties Ltd’s (CPL) intention to divest much of its Dunedin property portfolio; the proposed harbourside plan change is part of that scenario.

      CPL is POL’s property subsiduary – CPL is ‘driven’ from Wellington but shares ‘accounting and financial services’ with POL. Presumably, where the two companies begin and end will be clarified as the next stages of the ports merger progress.

      ****

      Battle of the Super Ports

      Broadly, New Zealand has too many ports committing large capital amounts to compete for fewer and larger overseas vessels calling here.

      Tauranga and Auckland are competing to be a hub port for the next generation of very large container ships (known as the “post-Panamax ships”).

      Ports of Auckland is wholly owned by the commercial arm of Auckland Regional Council, while Environment Bay of Plenty has majority ownership of the listed Port of Tauranga.

      Rivalry between Auckland and Tauranga for international trade is similar to the Lyttelton and Otago situation, where a stalemate over merger talks existed for some years.

      POL is owned by Otago Regional Council and LPC is majority owned by the commercial arm of Christchurch City Council.

      ****

      Ports of Auckland is the maritime gateway to New Zealand’s largest and most heavily populated area. The port handles 35% of New Zealand’s total annual trade by value and 48% of the North Island’s container trade. Ports of Auckland is open for business 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and handles 3.6 million tonnes of bulk and breakbulk cargo a year and over 840,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent container unit) a year. It provides shipping links to 207 ports in 73 countries.

      Ports Of Auckland Prepares For Bigger Container Ships (27.5.09) via NZPA

      Ports eye bigger container ships, but Maersk not signalling them
      (28.5.09)

      Port of Tauranga is New Zealand’s leading export port, and New Zealand’s second largest import port by value. The company also operates Metroport Auckland, which is the country’s first inland ‘dry’ port facility, situated in South Auckland. The facility has a dedicated rail service to the port of Tauranga and provides exporters and importers with easy access to the Auckland region.

      ****

      Lyttelton is the South Island’s major deep-water port. The port is currently expanding its physical boundaries. Lyttelton Port’s strengths lie in container handling, technology and customer service. Located only 15 minutes away from the metropolitan centre of Christchurch, the biggest city in the South Island and the hub of the South Island’s road, rail, air and sea distribution network. Lyttleton Port has experienced significant growth in recent years and handled 225,000 TEUs in the 2008 financial year.

      Adjacent to the city of Dunedin, Port Otago is the second largest port in the South Island and operates two wharf systems – Port Chalmers and Dunedin. The Port Chalmers container facility handles the largest container vessels that call at New Zealand’s ports. A 24 hour service ensures rapid turnaround of vessels and cargo. POL has previously indicated it plans to dredge at Port Chalmers to accommodate larger container vessels.

      The above descriptions can be found at marketnewzealand.com. The PDF file also contains a table, ‘Overseas cargo loaded by port’, showing export tonnage and value by port for the year ending June 2007 (provisional). As you will know, a lot has changed since then in terms of shipping and tonnage. POL has been hard hit.

      ****

      Next Generation Project Consultative Group – Notes of meeting held 29 August 2007

      Port Otago Media release – Next Generation Project Passes First Milestone 31.1.08

      Port Otago: Next Generation Public Info

      NZ Transport Intelligence – Lyttelton, Otago Ports Explore Operational Merger 6.11.08

      stuff.co.nz – Flexibility, capability the key issues: Fonterra 14.8.09

  3. James

    I suspect part of the reason for the relative lack of media interest is that historically POL has had the upper hand. If you dig back to 2006, POL bought 15% of LPC, blocking Christchurch City Council’s plans to conduct a full takeover.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10375110

    POL also at around that time was the only South Island stop for the big container route. This really just left coal as the only ace in LPC’s hand. Thus, when I read about the proposed merger, I assumed that it was probably good for POL and bad for LPC, and that if anything, the new entity would be headquartered in Dunedin. However, going by the precis of Elizabeth’s links, it seems that POL is no longer in such a strong position.

  4. Peter B

    LPC has a higher volume of exports than POL and a much higher volume of imports. POL has a much higher value of exports (I think 3rd nationally behind Auckland and Tauranga). This info is from the new govt infrastructure unit’s website.

    Dairy and Forestry may be the key to POL’s continued success. If Fonterra gets resource consent for its new rail spur at Edendale then its new Mosgiel facility will get much higher volumes. Southport at Bluff seems to be the most likely loser of a merger.

  5. Russell Garbutt

    An interesting question to ask about the presence of the media in matters of importance.

    The reality is that the whole media landscape has changed significantly since the explosion of blogs, discussion groups and the like. Businesses like the ODT have clearly suffered during this change in how news or opinion is disseminated and also because of the current economic situation. Even very large newspapers have been affected hugely – I think it was the Washington Post that laid off over 400 journalists and the like fairly recently because of falling advertising revenues and the costs of employing journalists on long investigations. Would the Watergate affair have been resolved if it happened today? Not as likely I would suggest.

    As advertising income drops, the ability to put a really good journalist onto investigative work drops as well. I honestly can’t remember the last time the ODT really undertook some truly investigative work. Yes, a few times they have asked through the Information Act for some stuff that a Government Department or the like was being a bit reticent about, but thats about it.

    There are a large number of issues in Otago that deserve dogged, determined, neutral and thorough investigation, but all too often it is just too easy to do a copy and paste job on a news release.

    The same applies to radio. Local radio in Dunedin is a joke and has been for years – for far too long the practice of re-presenting something from the print media has been going on. Can you think of the last time that a bit of investigative journalism ocurred in local radio?

    So, that demographic that is tuned into looking at blogs and the like will be invariably better informed than those who rely on main stream media, and the pity is that many people in positions of influence rely on that gap in knowledge. Dunedin, who’s demographic falls into the more elderly and less affluent is likely to be therefore worse served than other metropolitan areas.

    Anyone have any good ideas how these issues can be really addressed?

  6. Please visit our facebook page re: Otago Harbour Dredging. There is a group of us committed to stopping this from happening. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Port-Otago-Dredging#!/pages/Port-Otago-Dredging/127938083913838?ref=ts

  7. (You need to copy and paste the link in its entirety.. not just click the part that is hyper-linked)

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    Editor’s note:
    jacsa869, suggest you visit http://bit.ly/ – sign in for free short urls. This to help your messaging to interested parties and general public. Really easy to use, just paste in the long url and you get the short url, in this case:

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Port-Otago-Dredging#!/pages/Port-Otago-Dredging/127938083913838?ref=ts

    becomes

    http://bit.ly/b1HYB9

    You save space in your messages and you avoid long urls that break up. Very useful for tweets!

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