By David Hargreaves
So, it will cost you, I and him and her a combined NZ$30 million of our hard-earned to keep the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter open just long enough so that the Government can flog off 49% of Meridian Energy.
That's about the size of the deal struck between Meridian and the company controlled by global giant Rio Tinto, with additional sugar coating supplied by the Government, courtesy of us.
From the point the Government first stepped in earlier this year in an attempt to 'help out' it was always obvious tax payers were going to be forced to front up with some readies for the pleasure of keeping the always controversial smelter running for a while longer.
I have no doubt that the smelter will be closed in 2017, which is now when the owners get the first chance to pull the plug.
But what the deal means, on the most pragmatic level imaginable, is that the Government can now push ahead with the float of Meridian and pick up the putative NZ$3.2 billion for doing so.
Will the NZ$30 million 'investment' by the New Zealand public - effectively just so the Government can keep its plans on track - prove worth it?
Really, I suppose it depends on whether you believe that the Government's strategy is a worthwhile one anyway.
If the Government does get the NZ$3.2 billion for the Meridian shares it will undoubtedly argue that NZ$30 million was a small price to pay.
If a Meridian float was attempted without some sort of deal struck on Tiwai Point then the returns could easily have been more like NZ$2.5 billion - so under that scenario the taxpayer would have been down NZ$700 million.
I don't agree with the Government's strategy. Effectively by selling assets the Government can keep spending on new assets (NZ$5 billion to NZ$7 billion worth) without having to borrow. But of course it is losing dividends by selling shares and my basic contention is that as sure as night follows day the other 51% of these state assets will be sold eventually. That's just what tends to happen.
So, the country keeps spending at the same rate it was, but over time loses the income producing assets. Over time that will lead to trouble.
But, given that the Government is totally, intractably, committed to the current course of action, then NZ$30 million of our money will have been a small price to pay.
So, what doe the deal mean for the immediate future?
Well, it will be full speed ahead for the Meridian float - I would guess in October.
By throwing out the date at which the smelter, accounting for around 13% of this country's power production, is closed, Meridian can prepare financial forecasts that will be wholly more appetising than would be the case if the smelter was to begin the process of dying now.
Whether the Meridian shares will be seen as a good buy given that the longer term future for electricity consumption still remains (after 2017) up in the air, will I suppose depend on pricing.
Remember also that Mighty River Power - which I think is a better company than Meridian - has not set the market on fire since its NZ$1.7 billion float earlier this year. Last time I looked the shares were selling for about NZ$2.37 compared with an issue price of NZ$2.50.
Given that kind of performance it is going to take a big effort by the Government and its well-paid team of thousands of helpers to get a good response to Meridian. Time will tell.