Invercargill deputy mayor optimistic despite Tiwai Point closure

By Bronson Perich

Invercargill deputy mayor Toni Biddle says that despite the potential loss of 2260 jobs, she is confident that Southland can recover.

“There are many whānau in our community that will be affected by this announcement today.” Toni Biddle says.

“I think that people are still in a state of shock.”

The Tiwai Point Smelter opened in 1971 and is Southland's largest employer. The future of the 49-year-old smelter has been in doubt for almost a decade. Electricity costs, aluminium prices and raw material costs have affected the smelter's profitability.

The deputy mayor says owner Rio Tinto's several threats to close Tiwai Point caused Southland Regional Council to plan for this eventually. The council brought business, developers and civic leaders to the table to create a post-smelter gameplan.

“We’ve been working on a contingency plan for a long time," Biddle says.

Biddle says the plan is strong and, with Government support, Southland can pivot from this.

But if Tiwai Point can stay open, then the council is keen to help that happen.

“We will continue to fight to the very end for Tiwai Point to remain open,” Biddle says.

“But we have to think about the future and how our region will look without an aluminium smelter. We’ve done some great work about that.”

Biddle confirmed several National MPs had met the council today.

"We've had Mark Patterson, Penny Simmonds, who is the new National MP down here and Liz Craig with us this morning. All working toward a resolution."

She said that Labour's Te Tai Tonga MP, Rino Tirikatene, had also been in contact as well.