Shell is in a position to do now for New Zealand's southernmost city Invercargill what it did 45 years ago for the North Island city of New Plymouth.
Then, New Plymouth was looking at falling demand for milk and milk products as Great Britain prepared to join the EU.
Now, Invercargill and its port of Bluff are looking at something similar as milk prices start to fall in the commodity cycle. Its huge freezing and meat packing works has long been closed. The Rio Tinto Alcan smelter at Bluff is scheduled to close in the medium term.
The port of Bluff, operated by South Port, a company listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange, is in contention with Dunedin's Port Chalmers to be the base port for the Shell-led syndicate which is to explore the Great South Basin, considered to be the nation's last frontier in oil exploration and production.
The Shell led syndicate which discovered and then exploited the Maui field off New Plymouth transformed the agricultural centre into a thriving oil city and into the centre of New Zealand's heavy engineering which it remains today.
Given the strong ideological bias and activism in New Zealand's liberal-professional strata which took the form two years ago of the occupation of a Shell rig in New Plymouth, the remoteness of Invercargill's deep water port of Bluff will represent an attraction for any venture involving fossil fuels.
Invercargill's role in servicing the pastoral economy will weight against Dunedin's commercial base as New Zealand's main university city.
Invercargill- Bluff is also the home of the Southland Energy Consortium, a high level representational lobby organised for the purpose of promoting the region's exploitation of fossil fuels.
MSCNewsWire by Peter Isaac © 2014 MSCNewsWire