New chief appointed for Tiwai Pt smelter

Rio Tinto has appointed Chris Blenkiron to the role of chief executive and general manager of New Zealand's Aluminium Smelter (NZAS). Photo: Supplied

THE Tiwai Point aluminium smelter will have a new boss from next year.

On Tuesday, Rio Tinto announced the appointment of Chris Blenkiron to the role of chief executive and general manager of New Zealand’s Aluminium Smelter (NZAS).

The appointment came after the resignation of Stew Hamilton, who is leaving the role to become general manager of generation at Mercury Energy.

Rio Tinto acting managing director Pacific operations Dan van der Westhuizen said Mr Blenkiron would begin his role in early 2022.

“Chris has demonstrated a strong people-focused approach to delivering business outcomes and I believe he is the right fit to lead the excellent team at Tiwai.

“His depth of experience in forming lasting partnerships with key stakeholders will be important for NZAS, as we work with our community on the future of the Southland region.”

With more than 15 years’ experience in a range of leadership roles in manufacturing and building products businesses across New Zealand, Australia, and Asia, Mr Blenkiron was well placed to lead operations at Tiwai Point, Mr van der Westhuizen said.

Mr Blenkiron is the president of NS BlueScope Indonesia and was previously general manager for market, sales and business development at New Zealand Steel.

The smelter was due to shut this year, but was given a lifeline until at least 2024 after it reached a new power deal with its power suppliers.

Mr van der Westhuizen said the new chief executive would play a vital role in managing important relationships and overseeing the company’s obligations and wider role in New Zealand.