The news about Tiwai last week was a great relief.

Although it was essentially a commercial negotiation between two external companies, I was able to act as a trusted conduit between the parties to put Southland’s case and it ended up being a happy situation for Southland.
A lot of ill-informed commentators fixated on the Government’s $30 million contribution. In the context of the deal – Tiwai’s 650 on-site workforce, 2,400 other workers affected by any potential closure, and the $1.6 billion annual contribution to Southland’s economy – it was a no-brainer because that was what it took to seal the deal.
A lot of people have also been talking about the need for more jobs and industry to offset any future closure of the smelter. While that has been put off in the short term, it is important to understand Government’s role.
A Government should not be relied upon to create jobs. To bolster our economy and growth, we need the private sector to be creating jobs in the tradeables sector.
Whether they are high-earning export roles, or an entry level company, it is the job of entrepreneurs. Government’s role is to put in place the right conditions for economic growth, so companies can feel comfortable about expanding, growing, or just starting out in the business world.
Local government also has a role, through having plans for economic growth and development that encourage businesses and don’t stifle their creativity.
Southland trades heavily on the Burt Munro “can do” innovative legacy. What we need now is the companies who can continue this legacy.
We have the tools here. Venture Southland’s enterprise unit, led by Steve Canny, has access to Government help through the Regional Business Partner Network, capability development, and research and development funding.
Southlanders are renowned for building solid, dependable businesses with expertise and innovation at their core.
While none of these will grow as large as the smelter, expanding our business base down here through giving you the right tools and conditions to develop and grow will mean we can offset any future setbacks (even though I am supremely confident the world aluminium market will recover).
Government’s role is to give a hand-up for business to thrive. It’s individuals and our Burt Munro “can do” attitude, coupled with these right economic strategies, that will win the day.