Struggling businesses to receive support if Tiwai Point smelter closes

Coin South will expand to provide support to businesses that will be affected by the potential closure of the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter.

The agency, which was set up as a pilot project to assist start-up businesses, is now working with the Southland Chamber of Commerce on Southland’s Just Transition Plan to research the economic and employment impacts on businesses if the smelter closes.

The operators of the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter say it will continue operating until the end of 2024. There may be interest in continuing its operation past that point, but nothing has been confirmed.

Chamber chief executive Sheree Carey said the research was still at its data collection stage, and it had hired Hannan Consulting to speak to Tier 1 businesses connected to Tiwai.

Tier 1 businesses are those that have direct contracts with the smelter currently.

“What we envisage it to have is some actionable recommendations because we want to ensure that … it’s not a report that sits on the shelf … that it’s an enabler for true change and transformation for Southland businesses,” she said.

The draft report is due at the end of June and the final report will be sent to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment by the end of July.

Coin South interim chief activator Cathy Peters said the agency was hoping to apply the start-up methodology across different industries in Southland such as engineering and manufacturing.

Coin South interim chief activator Cathy Peters. The agency is now working with the Southland Chamber of Commerce on Southland’s Just Transition Plan.

The methodology was around customer validation, prototyping, design and future planning.

“It’s around applying those same principles to an existing business, to get them to be thinking more innovatively and future proofing as well,” she said.

The Coin South pilot was expected to end in June, but its success will see it continue to provide support.

“We’re evaluating the last three years and using that information on what we are doing into the future as we evolve,” Peters said.

The team had been surprised by its demand, as in the first year they were expecting to work with 15 to 20 founders.

“In the first year alone there were over a 100 that came through the door,” Peters said.

The past three years of the pilot project had been a huge success and showed that there were many passionate innovators in the region and demand for new ideas, Peters said.

Coin South would still continue to work with start-ups, she said.​

Article written by: Uma Ahmed.

Published in Stuff 13 May 2022.