11 Dec 2020

Tiwai Point smelter deal facing hurdles, ministers tell mayors

5:44 pm on 11 December 2020

Southland mayors say their communities are waiting for answers about the impending closure of Tiwai Point aluminium smelter.

Tiwai Point

Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods met with community leaders in Invercargill today to discuss the negotiations between Rio Tinto and the government.

Southland Mayoral Forum chair Tracy Hicks said they had confirmed there was still progress to be made.

Transmission pricing and remediation remained the largest hurdles, he said.

"He said the core issues were the workforce and remediation including intergenerational impact. He told us 'the deal is still there to be done'," Hicks said.

"The Southland community needs to know what is happening and definite timelines for a way forward. We have had closure in the backs of our minds for some time now. Our most critical task in the immediate future is to explore all options and to ensure there is not only high quality remediation, but that our community doesn't suffer."

The briefings had gone as well as could be expected given the circumstances and both Ministers - while providing no guarantees - had indicated they were continuing to engage with Rio Tinto, he said.

"An extended timeline for potential closure is important as is the commitment to environmental remediation, something we share with local iwi. The Tiwai staff and their families are impacted by these decisions which is something we are very aware of."

The smelter is expected to close in August next year.

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