The Southland Mayoral Forum is focusing on ensuring Southland communities have a strong, vibrant future no matter what the next 14 months may bring.
This follows yesterday’s announcement by Rio Tinto that it plans to close the Tiwai Aluminium Smelter in August 2021.
Mayoral forum chair Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks is urging the Government and Rio Tinto to continue dialogue and explore all avenues to keep the Tiwai Aluminium Smelter open before irretrievable steps are taken to close it.
“We can’t let this high quality plant, with its skilled and experienced workforce, slip away without exhausting all possible options for its retention.”
While Southland has a diverse economy, and the ability and capacity to grow other sectors, those discussions need to be put to one side until all options for the continuation of the plant are explored, Mr Hicks said.
“That said, the mayoral forum will be working with regional economic development agency Great South to explore ways to enhance partnerships with central government to ensure Southland is a vibrant, welcoming place.
“As a province we need those individuals and businesses affected by the proposed closure to secure a successful and healthy economic future.”
The mayoral forum wants a direct connection to any discussions taking place between central government and Rio Tinto.
“We deserve the opportunity to represent the interests of all Southlanders given the impact of any decisions will be felt by the entire province.”
Rio Tinto’s announcement this week had come as a shock, but given its demands in the past, it was not a total surprise, Mr Hicks said.
“It’s time the company fronts up and tells everyone what it will take to save the 2600 jobs in jeopardy of being lost. Rio Tinto talks about a ‘window of opportunity’ – I’m sure many of us want to know exactly what that window looks like.”
The mayoral forum will do everything within its power to ensure those directly affected are supported through whatever the outcome is.
“People make a place. Southerners are well known for their resilience and caring for each other.
“Together we are stronger – southern local government, community and business leaders are united in striving for the best outcome for our province and our people,” Mr Hicks said.
Source: rnz.co.nz Republished by arrangement