Smelter decision creates opportunity for new economic plan

The Green Party is calling on the Government to show leadership and work with the Southland community to develop an economic plan for a post-Tiwai Point aluminium smelter world.

“It’s a relief for Southlanders that the smelter will stay open for the time being, but everyone knows that it won’t be there forever and we need a proper plan for a post-Tiwai Southland economy,” Green Party energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes said.

“As long as New Zealand doesn’t have a clear alternative jobs plan, foreign companies like Rio Tinto can hold us to ransom and demand huge subsidies to keep their New Zealand operations open.

“Today’s decision to postpone the smelter’s closing date creates a window of opportunity to come up with a strong plan for a post-smelter future.

“The Government should show leadership and work with Southlanders to develop other economic opportunities. More dairy farming is obviously not the answer because Southland dairy farmers are already hurting from the global dairy price crash.

“We need to remember that New Zealand households and businesses are subsidising cheap electricity for the Tiwai Point smelter, and the Electricity Authority is suggesting a further $50 million in subsidised lines charges for the overseas-owned smelter.

“The Government needs to listen to Southlanders who have already done a significant amount of thinking about long term alternatives to the smelter that would create stable employment in clean, high-tech, and locally owned industries.

“We need to be thinking not just about Southland and Tiwai Point, but also about how to transition away from legacy polluting industries through New Zealand and towards a smart, green economy,” said Mr Hughes.