11 Jul 2020

Southland mayors hopeful Tiwai Point aluminium smelter can stay open

7:39 am on 11 July 2020

Southland's mayors have vowed to fight for more than 2500 jobs under threat when Tiwai Point aluminium smelter closes.

A general view of the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter.

The Tiwai Point aluminium smelter is set to close in August 2021, threatening more than 2500 jobs. Photo: Getty Images

Rio Tinto has announced the smelter will close in August next year, citing high energy costs and a difficult future.

The Southland Mayoral Forum has committed to ensuring the region has a strong, vibrant future no matter what the fate of the smelter is.

But forum chair and Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks said they had not given up on keeping it open.

"We can't let this high quality plant, with its skilled and experienced workforce, slip away without exhausting all possible options for its retention," he said.

The government needed to explore all options with Rio Tinto to save it before it was too late, Hicks said.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson insisted no more taxpayer money would be used to try to keep the smelter open.

But the forum, which included the mayors of Gore, Invercargill and Southland, wanted a seat at the table when any discussions took place.

"We deserve the opportunity to represent the interests of all Southlanders given the impact of any decisions will be felt by the entire province," Hicks said.

"It's time the company fronts up and tells everyone what it will take to save the 2600 jobs in jeopardy of being lost. Rio Tinto talks about a 'window of opportunity' - I'm sure many of us want to know exactly what that window looks like."

The mayoral forum confirmed it would do what it could to support those directly affected, including working with the regional economy development agency, Great South, to ensure Southland was a welcoming place.

"As a province we need those individuals and businesses affected by the proposed closure to secure a successful and healthy economic future."

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