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National Works To Support Southland Jobs

A National Government will facilitate negotiations between Rio Tinto, power companies and Transpower to achieve a more cost competitive environment to keep the Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter open, National Party Leader Judith Collins says.

“New Zealand is losing thousands of jobs every week due to the largest economic crisis in a generation.

“National recognises the need to support existing employment opportunities and protect 2260 jobs, both at Tiwai and in the wider community, from the hard closure of the smelter on August 31 next year.

“Our aim is to create a commercially viable outcome that would keep the smelter in operation for at least the next five years while preparing Southland to lessen the severity of the smelter’s closure.

“It is our understanding that the owners of the Manapouri Power Station, Meridian Energy, have offered a positive electricity price to Rio Tinto based on Meridian’s potential losses of tens of millions of dollars a year if there is a drop dead date for closure of the smelter. Based on this, we understand that a commercial deal could be reached.

“That deal alone would result in a more reasonable operating environment for the smelter’s operators, but National would do more.

“A major factor is the cost of electricity carriage charged to the smelter by Transpower, and National will want to see the current transmission price path negotiated to a point where the smelter can commit to a future beyond the proposed hard-close date.

“In exchange for this deal, we would require a plan from Rio Tinto for the clean up of the site and dealing with the waste when it closes.

“While creating certainty in the medium-term for Southland, National would have an eye to the future. Technology upgrades to the smelter could see up to 200MW of electricity available to the grid as dry year cover. We will look to partner with Rio Tinto on the installation of those upgrades.

“National will accelerate Transpower’s investment into transmission line upgrades to ensure Manapouri power station is not left stranded in the future, allowing the electricity to be available to the wider economy.

“This is a better deal than Labour’s $4 billion pumped hydro proposal, which is many years away, and there is no surety that its $30 million investigation will support the project.

“National will also invest in improving Southland’s internet connectivity, to allow new industries to locate closer to the renewable energy that Manapouri provides, to ensure the development of other industries and future jobs.

“Southlanders deserve a longer-term commitment based on sound commercial negotiation. The Government’s current hands-off approach falls short of what Southlanders should expect.”

© Scoop Media

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