Southerners express their relief after an agreement has been reached to keep the Tiwai Point aluminum smelter open.
Mining conglomerate Rio Tinto announced last year that it was shutting down Tiwai in August of this year due to high energy and transportation costs.
But it has made a deal with Meridian Energy to keep operating until the end of 2024.
Southland Mayoral Forum Chair Tracy Hicks said the announcement was a positive start to the new year.
“We have a lot of people who are absolutely thrilled – the workers feel they have some certainty about what their future will be.”
Hicks said the extension means other opportunities for the industry in the region can be explored.
“The one that has been talked about a lot is green energy from hydrogen – we would be able to produce something that is not being done anywhere else in this part of the world.
“There is an opportunity not only for transportation fuels for the south and all of New Zealand, but also in an export direction.”
E tū union spokesman Joe Gallagher said the foundry is at the center of the community and creates hundreds of jobs – not just the thousands of people directly employed there.
“It’s all the doctors, nurses, teachers, traders – they would all be affected – it’s all the people who come to Tiwai and do maintenance and spend some money in town to get home.”
Gallager said foundry workers were happy that they could now look to the future.
“Now everyone has the opportunity, the company, the community and the workers to sit down and say that we have this transition and we have three years, how do we get past 2024, to what would it look like and how would it be? that, ”he said.
One of the supporting businesses that could be crippled if the foundry closes this year is Food at Clifton – the last truck stop between Invercargill and the foundry.
Director Susan Brown said if the foundry closed the business it would suffer huge losses.
“Because we get a lot of subcontractors, then a lot of Tiwai employees who call for their coffee and their lunches on the way to work.
“We do a lot of catering for them as well, so if this were to close it would drastically reduce our business.”
Brown said the news of its opening is the town talk.
“A lot of guys when they come here they talk about it – and say they don’t know what they would do if it closed.
“People were getting really worried so it’s good to see that it stays open – it creates a lot of jobs for people,” Brown said.