A year of growth and progress in Southland

Aaron Officer and his fellow Tiwai Point delegates

It has been a fantastic year of action for our union’s Just Transition work in Southland. From classic industrial organising to participating in innovative community projects, E tū is throwing everything at making sure that workers don’t bear the full brunt of economic changes in the region.

One significant highlight has been our growing membership and power at Tiwai Point, the aluminium smelter operated by Rio Tinto. The future of the company has been uncertain for a while, with their ongoing business remaining reliant on complex energy deals with the Government.

While the company itself announces different intentions about the future quite regularly, E tū members at Tiwai aren’t letting that stop them from getting on with the work of both improving conditions at the smelter today and taking practical steps to prepare for a range of possible future outcomes.

Another one of the highlights has been our growing delegate team. Aaron Officer, who became a Tiwai delegate this year, is pleased to be increasing the union presence onsite.

“The stop-work meetings were fantastic and it’s great to have more leaders on board as a result,” Aaron says.

“I’ve also really enjoyed supporting our members who needed help dealing with workplace issues.”

Another new delegate, Curtis Omelvena, says “it’s nice to be part of something and knowing you’re not alone.”

Steve Fotheringham has also joined the delegate team, and says “being a new union delegate has been great, especially the training and learning.”

Our organising isn’t just happening within the Tiwai Point gates. As prospects for the whole Southland community are affected by the future of the smelter and other local opportunities, E tū is part of wider community organising efforts to make sure the voices of working people and other stakeholders are heard.

These include our partnership with local Rūnanga through Murihiku Regeneration, and direct lobbying efforts to the Government through meetings with Hon Megan Woods, the Minister of Energy and Resources.

“It’s nice to be part of something and knowing you’re not alone.”

Curtis Omelvena

Delegates, including long-standing delegate Tony O’Driscoll, know that a community-wide strategy is the best way to go.

“The Southland Just Transition project has brought the community together to work towards a better future for Southland, regardless of staying or going,” Tony says.