Anglo-Australian metals mining giant Rio Tinto Group and the government of New Zealand both committed yesterday to continue talks aimed at continuing operations at the troubled aluminium smelter at Tiwai Point.
In a statement emailed to Reuters, Rio Tinto’s Managing Director of Pacific Operations Kellie Parker said that the fact that the political will to keep the aluminium smelter in operation spanned the country’s two main parties was a hopeful sign.
“We are always open to continuing conversations that would see fairer costs established for the smelter. […] The ongoing uncertainty for our team at Tiwai and the Southland community is very hard but it is encouraging both major parties have now committed to working with us on a post-election decision.”
Meanwhile, Labour Party energy spokesperson Dr. Megan Woods said her party’s main focus is to retain a robust economy in the region, and the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter was key to that end.
“We will be investing in Southland’s economic development based on a transition plan developed by local leaders and the community. Southland has a proud history as a productive region and we believe they have a productive future as well.”
“Normally, any reduction in transmission costs for a major customer like the smelter would result in higher prices for other consumers,” she went on. “Labour will negotiate a way forward to keep the smelter operating and prevent extra costs falling on other consumers.”
National Party leader Judith Collins went on record last month as supporting a move to keep the plant running through 2025 and optimistic that a favorable deal for power at the plant could eventually be struck.
Yesterday also saw New Zealand First’s leader Winston Peters voicing support for maintaining the plant in operations for several years.
“There’s no better testament to the influence of New Zealand First than this race to keep up with our commitment to keep Tiwai running for another 20 years,” said Peters.