New Zealand / Business

'No shortage of support' to save smelter and 1000 jobs

15:38 pm on 3 November 2019

Organisers of a campaign to save the Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter say there's no shortage of support in Southland.

Photo: ekays/123RF

The country's only aluminium smelter has faced a slump in prices over the past 18 months, coupled with increasing power costs and over-capacity.

Smelter owner Rio Tinto is reviewing its options, which could include closing it down.

Fight for Fairness campaign coordinator Carla Forbes said the campaign was in its infancy, but it was already gaining support.

"When something comes along that does threaten Southland, the troops start mobilising really quickly," Ms Forbes said.

"My emails have been pinging away with 'what can I do? How can I support you?' We are just forming the campaign at this stage, but certainly from a Southland perspective, there will be no shortage of support."

Almost 1000 people work at Tiwai, but Ms Forbes said more than double that were indirectly employed by the smelter.

"The smelter has been charged nearly $200 million over the past 10 years for transmission infrastructure it does not use to take power from our hydro-rich region to the North Island. The team at Tiwai has had no choice but to absorb these costs, which has placed undue pressure on the operation."

She said they did not want a handout, they wanted to be treated fairly.