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Surrounding businesses likely to feel the impact of Tiwai smelter closure

News of the Tiwai Point closure is "scary", saus one local business manager in Southland.

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The community is fearful more than the jobs at the plant will go and the impact on the region could last for years. Source: 1 NEWS

The community is fearful more than the jobs at the plant will go and the impact on the region could last for years.

Susan Brown, a local café manager and caterer for the smelter, says many workers and outside contractors are regulars.

“They know we sell good food, good coffees so they do they come in every day a lot of them on their way to Tiwai,” she told 1 NEWS.

“I'd hate to think we had to lay off staff because of it - it's scary really, because we have families as well,” she said.

Yesterday, Rio Tinto announced that it was planning to close the aluminium smelter near Bluff.

“We're going to see some real challenges for those businesses, somehere between 50-70 businesses, their viability is going to be massively affected,” Neil McAra of the Southland Chamber of Commerce said.

One expert believes at least a third of engineering companies in region will suffer to some degree.

Gareth Evans of the Southland and Otago Engineering Collective wants to see the Government intervene.

"If businesses have an idea of what they could do to create a new job or a new demand, I think we need a targeted package to make that happen,” he said.

It’s feared it won’t just be jobs lost but people too, affected workers with families who will have to leave to look for new opportunities.

The Chamber of Commerce estimating more than 8,000 people could be lost from the province.

“It’s impossible to replace 2500 thousand jobs in the medium term, projects like agriculture are great in the long term but you are talking about potentially a 10-year horizon to create activity and numbers to replace Tiwai,” Mr McAra said.

The Prime Minister is set to visit Southland next week in the hope of finding solutions.