State loan lifeline

GOVERNMENT SUPPORT: Premier Jay Weatherill with Whyalla Hose and Fitting Services owner David Bruce during his visit to Whyalla on Monday.
GOVERNMENT SUPPORT: Premier Jay Weatherill with Whyalla Hose and Fitting Services owner David Bruce during his visit to Whyalla on Monday.

Two announcements by the state government this week have provided hope for Whyalla in its darkest hour.

On Monday Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis announced that interest-free loans of up to $750,000 will be available for suppliers fighting to stay alive while their payments are in limbo.

The loans scheme will be funded by the Regional Development Fund to the tune of $10 million.

Mr Koutsantonis described Arrium’s trade creditors as the ‘lifeblood’ of the Whyalla economy.

“Without them you would see widespread dislocation and social upheavel in Whyalla,” he said.

“These are people who are long-term residents who have investments in Whyalla and employ people locally – they are the supply chain.”

This was the prelude to Premier Jay Weatherill’s visit to Whyalla on Tuesday, where he announced that mining group OZ Minerals were considering a ‘substantial investment’ in Whyalla to support the steelworks.

"Discussions are in an advanced state between OZ Minerals and the administrators for a substantial investment here in Whyalla,” Mr Weatherill said.

“This is an important breakthrough which will create many jobs and also support the ongoing viability of the steelworks here in Whyalla.”

The Premier said more information on the plan between Oz Minerals and the mining group would be announced in the coming days.

Mr Weatherill met with Whyalla Hose and Fitting Services Owner David Bruce on Tuesday, who said the loans were an ‘11th hour reprieve’ for his business.

“Whyalla has come together, there is that camaraderie that was lacking in the past five or six years, hopefully we can get through it,” he said.

Member for Giles Eddie Hughes said it was important that the state government do all in its power to protect family businesses under threat from the Arrium crisis.

“Obviously our main focus is on a co-investment in the steelworks, but we have to make sure we still have that local contractor base,” he said.

The state opposition criticised the loan scheme as an ‘inadequate’ response to the Arrium crisis, but Mr Koutsantonis said the government remained committed to making a major investment in the company.