A deal between Meridian and Rio Tinto for the Tiwai smelter to remain open another four years provides time for a managed transition for Southland, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said today.
“The deal provides welcome certainty to the Southland community by protecting jobs and incomes as the region plans for the future. The Government is committed to working on a managed transition with the local community,” Mr Robertson said.
He said the government had been focussed on helping to ensure a deal was reached which kept the smelter open for longer than the year initially proposed by Rio.
Energy and Resources Minister, Megan Woods said the four-year deal would “help protect jobs and incomes in Southland and provide a timeline for the Southland community to work alongside the Government to map out a clear transition plan for the region for the time the Tiwai smelter is shut down.”
“The strong relationship between the Government, iwi, local authorities and the Southland business community means we are in a good position to map out a transition plan which allows for high wage jobs to remain in Southland as the region transitions, while providing new opportunities for economic growth in the region,” Ms Woods said.
“Meridian’s announcement that it is actively developing new growth opportunities for when Tiwai closes, including process heat, IT infrastructure and green hydrogen, highlights the opportunities for high-paying jobs that the Southland region has as the transition is made.”
Mr Robertson said today’s news was particularly welcome given the economic uncertainty created by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“New Zealand’s strong economy compared to the rest of the world, and steady political system, means this country is a great place to do business, and we welcome this commitment from Rio to continue its operations in Southland for the next four years,” he said.
The Government and Rio Tinto remain in discussion around transmission pricing and remediation of the smelter site.
“Understanding the extent of the environmental impact of the smelter and removal of toxic waste from this site remain a bottom line for the Government,” Minister Robertson said.