Opinion by Political Reporter Patrick Gower
The costs of KiwiRail have smashed head-on into the Government’s books, punching a $1.4 billion hole.
KiwiRail has now been valued on a commercial basis.
And the reality is that in commercial terms KiwiRail is what’s colloquially known as a 'dog'.
KiwiRail has undergone what’s technically known as a “write down”.
You see, KiwiRail was previously valued on grounds that included “social and community use”.
Now, KiwiRail is valued on its ability to bring a “commercial return”
And on that commercial basis, the long and the short of it is that KiwiRail is now worth $1.4 billion less.
This KiwiRail write down is what’s technically known as an “impairment expense”.
And it has severely impaired the Government’s books, for 2011/12 – released by Treasury today.
The Budget deficit in 2010/11 was $18.4 billion.
This year the deficit sliced to $9.2 billion.
But that’s actually worse than the $8.4 billon forecast at the May budget – the books are $800 million worse off.
That’s despite a better than expect tax take (income/incoming) and lower than expected Government spending (costs/outgoings).
So this $800 million would be more than covered if it hadn’t been for the KiwiRail hit – it’s put the Government’s books off the rails, temporarily.
The question is - what will happen to KiwiRail now?
Even the land KiwiRail owns is worth less.
The Treasury will continue to place its “social and community” value alongside KiwiRail’s new “commercial value”.
So you will be able to see what your local train line is worth commercially, compared to what it is worth taking into account the social value of getting you to work quicker.
This will provide an analysis to see what train lines are worth hanging onto or not – like Tranz Scenic.
It’s already been signalled for sale – another "partial asset sale” perhaps?
The books at least will say whether it's worth it or not.