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New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has used a quote from Adolf Hitler to hammer home his claim that Southlanders have been lied to about government support for Tiwai Point over the years.

And, during in a speech he made in Invercargill this morning, Peters said if his party is re-elected to government, he would negotiate a new electricity deal to incentivise the plant to stay open.

But, nowhere in the much-anticipated speech did Peters promise a Government bailout of the smelter, as he suggested should be the case in an op-ed for the Herald last week.

He also delivered a jab at Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, dismissing her plans for the "transition package" for Southland.

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Speaking to reporters in the region last week, Ardern said: "We are all in agreement that a transition [in Southland] is needed."

Peters does not appear sympathetic to this view.

"If we go down this pathway of abandoning Tiwai Point, in favour of a transition package as some politicians would advocate for, the results will be dwarfed by what happens here and the wider impact on employment across New Zealand," he said.

"If we don't prevail, and restore honesty and common sense to this issue, we will have disastrous effects here and across the country."

This comes after Rio Tinto announced its plans to wind down its New Zealand Aluminium Smelters, including Tiwai Point.

A strategic review had shown the business was "no longer viable given high energy costs and a challenging outlook for the aluminium industry".

Winston Peters has adopted saving the smelter as a matter of party principal. Photo / Alex Burton
Winston Peters has adopted saving the smelter as a matter of party principal. Photo / Alex Burton

Since the news broke, Peters has adopted saving the smelter as a matter of party principle.

Today, he offered up what he billed as a solution to some of the cost-pressure problems.

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He promised that if New Zealand First was around the Cabinet table after the election, its ministers would "commit to a 20-year agreement with a 10-year review, with a fair electricity cost based on the cost of supply and a respectable margin".

That margin, he said, would be close to the original agreement of 10 per cent when the smelter first opened.

Peters said over the years he has watched politicians lie about the fact that the smelter – which is owned by a private company – has not received some sort of financial help from the Government.

And he said that's a lie the people of Southland have believed.

"Remember the heinous Hitler comment 'if you're going to tell a lie, tell a big one – the people are more likely to believe it.'"

The quote is a loose translation of a line used in Mein Kampf.

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Peters had with him the original legislation which helped build the smelter.

That legislation, he said, "sets out the actual cost of supply of electricity plus a 10 per cent margin".

"Everything you have been told about this agreement being a secret is a lie, and the evidence has been sitting on the statute books since 1963."