Sweet smelter sign-off

Last updated 08:38 15/08/2013

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OPINION: The news about Tiwai Point last week was a great relief, writes Eric Roy (National) in From the Beehive.

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 onsite workforce, 2400 other workers affected by any potential closure and the $1.6 billion annual contribution to Southland's economy - it was a no- brainer, as 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 the Government's role.

A Government should not be relied on 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. The 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 on the Burt Munro can-do innovative legacy. What we need is the companies who can continue this legacy. We have the tools here. Venture Southland's enterprise unit has access to Government help via the Regional Business Partner Network, capability development, along with 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 confident the world aluminium market will recover.

The 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.

» Eric Roy is the electorate MP for Invercargill.

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- The Southland Times

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