New jobs for region stalled

TERRI RUSSELL
Last updated 05:00 23/02/2013

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More than 70 jobs in Southland could be on the line and thousands of new jobs stalled after government-owned Solid Energy announced a worsening financial position.

Solid Energy chairman Mark Ford told Radio New Zealand yesterday that its Southland lignite developments were part of the non-core assets the company would be exiting from. He would not rule out job losses.

Its debt stands at $389 million, due largely to a drop in world coal prices by 40 per cent, and shareholding ministers this week announced the company was in discussions with its banks.

Solid Energy has developed a $25m lignite briquetting plant at Mataura, and had proposed to develop a urea and petrochemical plant in Southland.

Southland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Richard Hay said more than 2000 people were expected to be employed at the peak of Solid Energy's Southland-based operations in four years. "It had the opportunity to be another to the value of Tiwai for the region.

"It's very disappointing what is being projected in Southland in 2017 is not only a long way off, but possibly floundering," he said.

Hundreds of millions of dollars would have been generated for the company and flowed into Southland's economy, he said.

Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks said if Solid Energy did not develop the lignite resources someone else would. "I do believe the lignite resource in Southland is one that will be developed at some point, by somebody. The resource is there and we as a community need to understand the potential and the challenges that these resources present."

Mataura Community Board chairman Alan Taylor said it was a setback for the community.

People were looking forward to the jobs and further developments it would create, he said.

Ohai Community Development Area subcommittee chairman John Hogg said there had been rumours of a new mine near the town which would have been positive for jobs.

"From Ohai's point of view, workers and the town would be concerned if they shut up shop and walked out of it," he said.

SOLID ENERGY EMPLOYS

45 at the New Vale opencast mine near Gore. 20 on the rehabilitation at the former Ohai mine site. 8 at the lignite briquette plant in Mataura. 1 other worker between all of the Southland sites. A total of 1222 workers nationwide.

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- The Southland Times

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