Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says workers deserve better at Southland's Tiwai Point smelter, with an announcement as early as next week.
Peters told media during his party's conference yesterday that he was doing something "nobody else had done" and that was to speak to Southland workers who "deserved a future."
He said he will be at the Invercargill working men's club on Friday where he said a "major announcement" will be made.
While he wouldn't divulge further details, Peters has been advocating a worker or management buy-out at the aluminium smelter since majority owner Rio Tinto confirmed it will be closing the factory with the loss of 2,600 jobs next August.
He suggested there was also some leverage in a management buy-out given the estimated $400 million remediation price tag the Australian mining and metals company could face in 13-months from closing the plant and in its commitments to electricity provider Meridian.
There are question marks about the viability of a buy-out and Peters would appear to be at odds with coalition partner Labour on the issue, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern talking more about the next "transition" phase and scuppering talk of an outright bail out on Thursday.
Polls? What polls?
Ahead of the weekend's business-end of the NZ First conference, held in Auckland, Peters said he had now fully recovered from his recent food poisoning and "felt great," in particular because he "didn't read the polls."
Polls notwithstanding, the 150 or so party member delegates entered into some vigorous debates during the pre-election conference.
One early remit, to review the 2011 Freedom Camping Act - proposed by Sally Arbuckle of Kaikoura - was aimed at adopting a harder line on freedom campers, suggesting that foreigners should be charged for the privilege of camping.
"If you are a Kiwi you should be allowed to camp, while foreigners should have to pay where they stay. It's that simple," said Sally's husband Jamie Arbuckle.
Rob Gore, the party's candidate for the New Lynn electorate, said the issues with freedom camping showed that NZ was still "hostage to the self-interests of people in the tourism sector."
"Not charging people undervalues NZ, what is the price of an international visitor coming into the country."
Gore said NZ "shouldn't have to play the poor cousin all the time." The remit was passed.
The conference continues today and closes with the official launch of the party's election campaign.