Peters coy on plan to save smelter

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New Zealand First leader Winston Peters addresses Tiwai Point workers during his "Back Your Future" campaign bus tour.

NEW ZEALAND First leader Winston Peters says his plan to save Tiwai for 20 more years is all about “telling the truth”.

However, he remained coy regarding details as to how he would achieve that.

Mr Peters and his “Back Your Future” campaign bus tour visited Southland this week to talk to people and hear about local issues.

Yesterday, he went to New Zealand’s Aluminium Smelter (NZAS) at Tiwai Point to meet its workers.

He said he would scrap any transition plan for the smelter’s future and said anyone who was focused on diversifying Southland’s economy, as proposed by Labour, was “swallowing their narrative”, he said.

“You have the finest aluminium production in the world — why do you have to diversify?

“We are not transitioning.”

Mr Peters did not explain his plan for the smelter, but said he was determined to save it.

He said NZAS needed “a fair go”, as 2600 jobs and $450 million were on the line.

“All put at risk because of bad political decisions and apathetic concern in Wellington.

“My plan is telling the truth. There was a fair price mechanism. It’s been around for decades and in 1977 a prime minister threatened a 350% increase and since then the industry has been struggling even though it is the finest aluminium maker in the whole wide world.

“All of them [Meridian and Rio Tinto] will be brought to the table to be reasonable but it starts with central government. It starts with the transmission cost.”

It was “not complicated” for parties to reach an agreement, “if you understand about commerce”, he said.

Earlier this week, Mr Peters met residents of Mataura, who expressed huge concern about the 8500 tonnes of aluminium dross stored at the town’s former paper mill site.

The dross, a byproduct of aluminium manufactured at Tiwai Point, could produce poisonous ammonia gas if it came into contact with water.

Mr Peters said the dross was not being removed at the “required speed” and residents were worried.

“If it was downtown Queen St or Wellington or Auckland… this would not be happening.

“But when it is happening in the provinces and the provinces have concerns cracy… they [the Government] just don’t listen.

“How on earth could central government let that happen? Our job is to fix it.”

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