24 Jul 2020

Tiwai Point: Southland mayor keen to hear Winston Peters' solution

10:07 am on 24 July 2020

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is jetting down to Invercargill this morning to hold a 'Save Tiwai' rally in the city.

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New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

Peters declared his intention to fight the closure of the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter shortly after Rio Tinto announced it would close.

A schism within the coalition government has delayed the $100 million package for Southland at the last moment, with NZ First instead pushing for a government buyout of the smelter to be explored as an option.

Southland District Mayor Gary Tong said it would be good hear what Peters had to say about scuppering the $100m deal.

"We need some assistance down here. We do need help from the government.

"His intention was a local shareholding is what I understand, but I'm hearing from down there that's not going to work."

He told Morning Report he also read that Peters had "something else up his sleeve ... we just got to wait".

Tong said his council would not put any money towards it.

"If I took that out for consultation to our locals, it would be a 'no'. It would depend on the circumstances, but not in the present situation."

He didn't believe anyone would want to invest in the company right now.

"We've always known that at one day Tiwai is going to drop in production or close and we need to be prepared to diversify in our economies ... we have got an opportunity down here to create other opportunities so let's move in that direction as well."

Tong said time was of the essence and there needed to be a solution before December.

Rio Tinto has announced that it will wind down New Zealand Aluminium Smelters, best known as Tiwai Point smelter, by August 2021.

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