MP given 'save-smelter' postcards

Invercargill MP Eric Roy was preparing to pay for extra luggage when he flew from Invercargill to Wellington yesterday.

The National Party member had to pack 3110 signed and personalised "Save Our Smelter" postcards in his bags when flew back to the capital.

The postcards, endorsed by the EPMU, were addressed to Deputy Prime Minister Bill English and Mr Roy said he would act as the mailman.

"I will certainly pass these on to Bill English," Mr Roy told EPMU Southland organiser Trevor Hobbs in his Invercargill office. The union launched the postcard campaign in September to save the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter from closure.

Mr Roy said he took the postcard campaign very seriously and there was genuine concern in the province about the smelter's future.

Nearly 650 people worked and were directly dependent on the smelter, with nearly three times that number working in linked industries and trades, he said.

He would carry the message of the Southland people to Parliament but the power price negotiation between Meridian and Rio Tinto was something the Government did not feel it should intervene in, he said.

"I'd have to say there are a number of businesses in Southland which aren't the smelter which have said if there is a concession for the smelter we need one as well.

"That's the difficulty of the Government wading in and telling them [Meridian] to do this," he said.

He would draft the postcards into a formal petition to be presented to a select committee.

EPMU Southland organiser Trevor Hobbs said the Save Our Smelter campaign, dubbed SOS, was organised because the union was extremely concerned with the Government's "hands-off approach".

Reports Meridian Energy and Rio Tinto were resuming negotiations were encouraging, he said.

"Nothing happened from September through to the present and the fact they are back around the table talking hopefully something will come out of it," he said.

But news in Australia last week Rio Tinto intended to take another A$5 billion (NZ$6.3b) out of its operating costs and the brunt of that was going to be coal and aluminium was a concern, he said.

The Southland Times