Just Transition oversight group holds first meeting

A group has been established to help Southland transition to a post-Tiwai Point economy and ensure the process stays on track.

The Just Transition enduring oversight group held its inaugural meeting last week, where Murihiku Regeneration representative Aimee Kaio and Southland Chamber of Commerce president Neil McAra were elected co-chairs of the group.

They would oversee the region’s transition programme, providing a key link between regional leaders and central government, to ensure the process stayed on track, Ms Kaio said.

The group included representatives from iwi, business, the community, agriculture, education, unions and local and central government, she said.

Among them were E tu organiser Anna Huffstutler, Invercargill City Council chief executive Clare Hadley, Community Trust South general manager Jackie Flutey, SIT chief executive Onno Mulder, Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks and Ministry of Social Development southern regional director Sue Rissman, Ms Kaio said.

‘‘It is important that we have the widest representation on this group so that all parts of our diverse community have a voice in our just transition.

‘‘The announced smelter closure leaves us a short window to make Southland stronger and provide better jobs for our people. It has also provided us a rallying call to join together to think about the type of future we want in the region and start working toward making that a reality.’’

The oversight group would release a plan in January outlining the areas of focus for Just Transition and the next steps in delivering on the plan, she said.

Murihiku Regeneration is hosting a science and innovation wananga in Invercargill this week to discuss what comes next for the region.

The event will look at significant opportunities for the Southland and wider New Zealand economies and will also tour schools to talk about hydrogen technology.

The Government announced the Just Transition strategy last year, after Rio Tinto announced it would be closing its operations at the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter by 2024.

The smelter employs about 1000 workers directly while also supporting 1600 workers through its suppliers in the region.

Its closure has been forecast to reduce the regional economy by $200million.

luisa.girao@odt.co.nz

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