Smelter commitment welcome, but transition funding needed

29 Sep 2020

Media Statement from the Southland Regional Leadership Forum

The Labour Party’s policy to negotiate an extension to the life of the Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter and support a Just Transition is welcome but concrete funding commitments will be needed, says spokesperson for the Southland Regional Leadership Forum and Mayor of Gore, Tracy Hicks.

“Southland’s leaders have been calling on the Government to support a plan to extend the life of the smelter in order to allow time for a Just Transition that creates new jobs and industries. If the smelter were to close in August 2021, as planned, it would mean 2,600 jobs disappearing overnight, with devastating consequences for workers, their families and the wider Southland community. That simply can’t be allowed to happen,” says Mayor Hicks.

“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s commitment to back an extension for the smelter is a really positive moment in our fight for the future of Southland’s economy. Having both Labour and National committed to negotiating a deal with Rio Tinto for an extension to the life of the smelter is important for Southland.

“Labour’s promise to help Southland with a Just Transition – creating new, sustainable jobs for the future – is good but we need a firm and substantial commitment to funding, not just the transition office which will be based in Southland, but also the projects that will come out of that initiative.

“Our region has well-developed plans for 21st-century industries that would take Southland to the forefront of innovation in New Zealand and make our region part of the solution to the challenges facing the world, such as climate change. Getting these ideas off the ground will take time as well as significant government investment.

“Labour’s announcement is an important step in the right direction, but we will need to see it backed by successful negotiations with Rio Tinto and firm funding commitments for economic development. We stand ready to work with Central Government following the election to get this plan underway,” says Mayor Hicks.