24 Aug 2020

Tiwai Point aluminium smelter closure: calls for managed transition

6:30 pm on 24 August 2020

Southland leaders are calling for political parties to take a stance on how to manage the closure of the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter.

21586193 - a vibrant sunrise overlooking bluff aluminium smelter new zealand

Rio Tinto has announced it will close Tiwai Point aluminium smelter next August. Photo: ekays/123RF

The Regional Leadership Group met with Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Minister for Energy and Resources Megan Wood today, and pushed for a long-term managed transition of the smelter.

Rio Tinto announced last month it would close the smelter next August, with more than 2500 jobs on the line.

Grant Robertson confirmed there are ongoing negotiations with Rio Tinto and Meridian Energy.

The group's spokesperson and Gore District Mayor, Tracy Hicks, said they all agreed a managed transition was better than the short-term hard closure that has been proposed.

He confirmed a government transition package for Southland was discussed, which would be used to implement some of the projects identified in the region's development strategy.

Any Tiwai closure would be a significant issue for Southland voters this election, he said.

"It is expected that all political parties will have a clear stance on this and while the timing of the elections isn't helpful, we have been proactive in taking the opportunity to engage directly with all party leaders to advocate for a managed transition," Hicks said.

"While we appreciate nothing can be confirmed until after the election, it's critical that a solution which supports a managed transition period can be found shortly afterwards, along with a just transition financial package for the region."

The group was continuing to support negotiations that would encourage a preferred solution to be reached, he said.

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