What a day it’s been for Southland.
The Prime Minister Jacinda Adern , Minister of Finance Grant Robertson, Megan Woods Minister of Housing and Energy and Resources, Shane Jones Minister of Regional Development all in town with one mission….to allay fears of Southland over the impending closure of the Tiwai point Aluminium Smelter.
In Shane Jones’ case it was also to announce the disbursement of money from the Provincial Growth Fund….lots of money!
The day got off to a cold, very cold start with a media briefing in a very small room at the offices of Great South, formerly venture Southland. At least it was nice and toastie in there.
There was nearly just as many minister’s and MP’s as there were media personnel. Not much room to shake a microphone stand.
Plenty of worthy and not so worthy questions were asked and plenty of worthy and maybe not so worthy answers given. Click here to have a look at the livestream.
Both PM Jacinda and Finance Minister Grant both stated that they want the high wage high skilled jobs to stay in Southland and the government is here to help the workers to transition in to new jobs.
Jacinda said news that Rio Tinto withdrawing from NZ gives the government good reason to expedite the transition process and now it’s just a question of time lines. She went on to say there is huge potential here and that in this time of uncertainty her government is walking with and working with the people of Southland.
In a notable political distancing maneuver the PM referred to a comment from deputy PM Winston Peters saying the smelter remaining open must be a priority. Ms Adern countered saying she saw the comments from the leader of NZ First and added that the smelter remaining open was not the nature of the conversation held around the table this morning. Looks like fait acompli
The visit by Prime Minister Adern and the two high ranking ministers came about after calls from the local community after last weeks shock announcement. Regional Development minister Shane Jones visit had been planned for some time.
The PM was also to meet with Tiwai Point Smelter Union leaders today where she will no doubt hear straight up the feelings and views of smelter workers.
The final word comes from Gore District mayor Tracy Hicks via Grant Robertson who said Mr Hicks had been around for a long time and he’d never seen the PM, Minister of Finance other senior ministers, MP’s, mayors and chairs all in the same time, an historic moment.
Grant Robertson says that’s reflective that the government is here to walk alongside the region as we go through this transition.