RMA reform will not solve the climate crisis

Written By: - Date published: 10:26 am, April 4th, 2023 - 25 comments
Categories: Christopher Luxon, climate change, energy, Environment, national, politicans, same old national, science - Tags:

Last week surrounded by white men in suits National leader Christopher announced the party’s energy policy.

The speech was interesting.

The first part talked about anything but climate change.  Luxon highlighted the environmental devastation that we faced by talking about tax and the economy.  He emphasised that National’s priorities would include requiring the Reserve Bank one focus, to control inflation, stopping the addition of costs on business, remove bottlenecks that are getting in the way of business growth, providing tax relief, and bring discipline to government spending and lifting incomes for all.  Welfare reform, law and order, improved health and education and resilient infrastructure were also mentioned.

It is clear to see what National’s priorities are.

He eventually got around to talking about renewable electricity.

He committed to following the Government’s emissions budgets and the country’s obligations under the Paris Accord but said that he would not necessarily use the same methods.  He thinks that the country can have its lunch and eat it too and that we can still drive cars, heat our homes and grow the economy while at the same time meeting our obligations.

He claims that emissions have increased under this Labour Government which would appear to be not necessarily correct.

He showed National’s fixation with cars when he claimed that “[w]e can get a third of the way to net zero by 2050, and still drive our cars when and where we want, by going electric on a massive scale.”

Putting to one side the issue with the amount of captured carbon in new EVs who could disagree with the mass electrification of the country’s car fleet.  But wouldn’t this require significant incentives to individuals to replace gas guzzlers with electric vehicles, major public investment in transmission lines, and reform of the electricity sector to incentivise small providers and homes to feed electricity into the national grid?  Not to mention the huge roll out of charging stations?

Luxon then reached for the superlatives:

The challenge is ambitious. It’s exciting. And today I’m going to tell you National’s plan to achieve it.

What pray tell is this plan?  Huge budgets to make sure that the New Zealand Battery project continues?  Renationalisation of the Power companies so that commercial impediments are removed?  Large scale funding of the sector to allow renewable energy sources to be delivered at pace?

Nope Luxon proposed RMA reform as the silver bullet.  No money, no fundamental reorganisation of the sector, just RMA reform.  National has never met a problem for which the solution is either RMA reform or a tax cut.

On the weekend some doubt was cast on the utility of the policy.  On Q&A it was pointed out that there were a number of windfarms that have consents but which are not being built.

The problem would appear to be commercial interests not being met, not the consenting process for wind farms.

It is good for National to raise the prospect of increased use of electric vehicles and renewable energy sources.  But to think that RMA reform will achieve the incredibly difficult and complex job of improving sustainability is bizarre.

25 comments on “RMA reform will not solve the climate crisis ”

  1. Ad 1

    Luxon needs to ac

    The first stage of Mercury NZ's 222MW Turitea Wind Farm was commissioned in the last quarter of 2021 and construction of the second stage is scheduled for completion in mid-2023.

    [overlong quote without link deleted]

    • weka 1.1

      I’ve deleted the overlong quote (which got caught in the Spam filter because of too many internal links). Please provide a link for the quote, and then people will also be able to read the whole thing.

  2. Ad 2

    Luxon needs to acquiant himself with projects that are consented but not built, to see that the RMA isn't really the problem. The problem is that the private sector doesn't deliver for the over capacity and over delivery required for high system stressor events.

    A quick summary of the renewable action on the ground:

    – The first stage of Mercury NZ's 222MW Turitea Wind Farm was commissioned in the last quarter of 2021 and construction of the second stage is scheduled for completion in mid-2023.

    – Construction on Meridian Energy's 176MW Harapaki Wind Farm commenced in June 2021, with commissioning expected in mid-2024.

    – NZ Super Fund (the government-owned pension fund) is partnering with Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners to undertake feasibility studies for a potential 1GW offshore wind farm in the South Taranaki Bight and the joint venture has submitted a pre-activity notice to the Environmental Protection Agency to deploy a FLiDAR (i.e., a floating light detection and ranging device) later this year.

    – The government has started work on developing a regulatory framework for offshore renewable energy

    – Contact Energy's Tauhara geothermal development near Taupō is due for completion late 2023.

    – Todd Energy's 2.1MW Kapuni solar project in South Taranaki and Kea Energy's 1.85MW Wairau solar project in Marlborough is I understand underway

    – Lodestone Energy's 39MW solar farm in Kaitaia and Far North Solar Farm's 16MW Pukenui Solar Farm is under construction

    – Channel Infrastructure's 26.7MW solar farm at Marsden Point have received resource consent.

    – Several more are in planning including: Nova Energy, Solar Bay, Helios Energy, HES Aotearoa, Harmony Energy, Manawa Energy, Eastland Group and Infratec joint venture, Contact Energy and Lightsource bp joint venture, Genesis and FRV Australia joint venture, Hawke's Bay Airport and Manawa Energy partnership, Solar Bay and Christchurch Airport partnership; and Far North Solar Farm and Aquila Capital partnership.

    – Resource consent for the Hiringa Energy and Ballance Agri-Nutrients green hydrogen joint venture project was granted in December 2021 If the project proceeds, it will see the construction of a 24MW wind farm to generate electricity for the production of green hydrogen.

    – Contact Energy and Meridian Energy are also jointly carrying out feasibility studies and seeking registrations of interest from potential partners to develop a 600MW green hydrogen facility in Southland.

    – Then there's the Fonterra + Huntly Thermal transition away from coal to pelletised system

    – Then of course there's NZBattery which in reality requires a Labour government go get back in or it's dead.

    There is just so much on I would have preferred to see National stop trying to strip out project regulation and start focusing harder on strengthening the central Transpower grid and enabling investors to get in faster to get building faster.

    And also funding Universities here to fund renewable energy engineering like doctors or nurses, because they are the people that can enable this energy transition we are trying to do.

  3. Ad 3

    Forgot to include the influence of Southland's smelter on green hydrogen and wind power investment on Southland and Otago.


    • RedLogix 3.1

      It is my strong sense that green hydrogen, produced with renewables like hydro or geothermal, or energy dense nuclear – is going to be the major pathway to full decarbonisation.

      Vehicle and industrial electrification looks good until you consider the unobtanium volume of metals necessary to build it out. By contrast hydrogen substitutes fairly well into our existing heat engine and industrial infrastructure without an infeasible demand on resources.

      EV's and SWB driven electrification will have it's place, but as we have discussed on other threads there are some strong constraints on what can be achieved. As always the caveat is that NZ does not have to invent any wheels here, we can sensibly wait until other parts of the world have sorted the technologies.

      So in this light it is good to see this article – I think the projects it describe put in place some key underpinnings for NZ's future energy systems.

  4. AB 4

    National has never met a problem for which the solution is either RMA reform or a tax cut

    Would want government 'crowding out' the market now would we? Basically, they are Tories who see the whole country as just a playground for their own enrichment.

  5. Corey 5

    Anything that speeds up house building in NZ is a good thing, we are spending $1 million a day on keeping our poorest in motels, that's disgraceful and a god damned waste if tax layers money, we need houses for these people. Bugger ideology.

    While we're on the subject, any govt serious about future proofing NZ, rebuilding the north after the floods and rebuilding chch (which is still a total mess) would be talking about bringing back a version of the ministry of works.

    I know it breaks the labour/national neoliberal economic orthodoxy, but the amount of infrastructure that is required to be built in this country can't be built by begging developers.

    The model govts have used post 84 hasn't worked, our infrastructure is decaying because most of it was built by the old ministry of works not the private sector, it's been 40 years it's time to move on!

    NZ is building 5 k state houses a year, which is about the same amount the first labour govt built a year with 1/5 of the population and worse tech.

    I don't care about ideology, Reform the RMA if it speeds up housing, but for goodness sake , increase state housing stock to about 8-10% of overall housing stock so you're not wasting our taxes having fellow kiwis languishing in motels

    And anyone who thinks we can rebuild this country and build the infrastructure this country is long overdue for while future proofing NZ without a ministry of works is out of their minds.

    • Ad 5.1

      No they are not bringing back the Ministry of Works.

      The two entities involved are Crown Infrastructure Partners and NZTA.

      You will see a broad-ranging infrastructure commercial alliance formed that spans local and central government work across the East Coast.

      It will be the largest single investment of public funds into the East Coast, likely bigger than after the Napier Earthquake.

      Hopefully everyone in Treasury is going to avoid the pitfalls of CERA and the outrageous number of times private citizens had to defend their claims to the High, Appeal, and Supreme Courts.

  6. Mike the Lefty 6

    National always wants the public to believe that Rome WAS built in a day. The RMA is far from perfect but at least it is a check on dodgy politically expedient half-assed quickie building solutions that will fall down around your ears at the first earthquake.

    • Mac1 6.1

      Attended a Housing meeting today where one participant referred to AF8, a group with information about Alpine Fault-based earthquakes. She said our Alpine Fault last had a magnitude 8 earthquake in 1717. They are supposed to be 300 year events……

      The AF8 site tells us, "While we can’t predict earthquakes, scientific research indicates there is a 75% probability of an Alpine Fault earthquake occurring in the next 50 years, and there is a 4 out of 5 chance that it will be a magnitude 8+ event." https://af8.org.nz

      Combine a climate-enhanced weather event with an AF8 and we have many and huge problems. When Spring Creek had its 1983 floods, the wisdom was that it could have been worse as the rain/snow melt in the ranges was not followed by a day later rain fall in the lower side valleys. An earthquake rupturing stop banks during a flood was also mentioned then, and it would not have been just coastal areas at risk.

      National’s cure-all RMA reform certainly has a huge task in front of it, at that rate. To me RMA reform is more button- pressing, reaction-seeking political rhetoric.

      • RedLogix 6.1.1

        The harsh reality is that the whole of NZ is a geotechnical hazard of some kind. Zelandia is the most geologically active continent on earth, and will always be subject to an elevated risk of earthquakes, vulcanism, massive landslides and erosion.

        The well known Alpine Fault is just one of literally thousands of equally dangerous faults known on land. Combine this with the presence of a monstrous mega-slip subduction fault off the east coast of the NI and a history of huge tsunami that would make the recent rather routine ex-tropical storm Gabrielle look like a heavy dew.

        Add in one of the most dangerous super-volcano caldera around Taupo and Okataina anywhere in the world – and there is no reason for the inhabitants of Hobbiton to feel complacent.

        Feel like moving to Australia yet?

        • Tricledrown

          To Australia where its drought, flood ,dust storm or cyclone no place is perfect these shakey isles are just fine no fukushima Putin ,Trump or Pauline Hansen.

          • RedLogix

            As for Fukushima:

            There were 2,202 disaster-related deaths in Fukushima, according to the government’s Reconstruction Agency, from evacuation stress, interruption to medical care and suicide; so far, there has not been a single case of cancer linked to radiation from the plant. That is prompting a shocking reassessment among some scholars: that the evacuation was an error. The human cost would have been far smaller had people stayed where they were, they argue.

  7. Stuart Munro 7

    The RMA likely isn't much cop – if it were to protect or enhance those elements of the environment that matter to us, we'd have heard a deal more weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth from the unrighteous Right by now.

    But by promising to wreck it, National signals to its base that merrily ignoring all regulations would resume, if only the public would vote for their unattractive assemblage of ambulant dog-tucker.

    Remember ECan? National appointed goons to stop it doing its job – and Labour proved to be too corrupt to recall them and hold fresh elections. National have zero credibility on these issues, and Labour hasn't got much more.

    • Hunter Thompson II 7.1

      OK, so the RMA hasn't worked, but the Natural and Built Environment Bill that will replace it doesn't give cause for celebration either (unless you're a lawyer or environmental consultant).

      It's a real mish-mash, which explains why the Chief Justice has warned Parliament that much time-consuming litigation lies ahead if the Bill passes in its present form.

      • Stuart Munro 7.1.1

        That was probably the intent – social welfare for lawyers.

        • Belladonna

          In which case, Hipkins should kill the RMA replacement dead as a dodo right now.

          The last thing our creaking-at-the-seams court system needs is a tranche of unnecessary court cases challenging unclear legislation.

          Nor do we need to have virtually all development put on hold, for years, if not decades, while lawyers enrich themselves arguing.

          • Incognito

            The NZ Court system is such a rort, as is the NZ Health system, the NZ Education system (especially ECE), and just about any profession in which people used to do honest jobs for an honest living. Everybody is rorting everybody else. I believe some call this neo-liberalism.

            • Stuart Munro

              Everybody is rorting everybody else.

              Outside the comfortable corruption of the professional classes, that probably isn't true. Our once classless society is devolving into a corrupt oligarchy and an oppressed mass. On Labour's watch.

              • Incognito

                A few of things:

                Firstly, I was generalising the generalisation by Belladonna, to make a point.

                Secondly, the erosion of and damage to egalitarian aspects & features of our society has been going on for many years. It’s like waves breaking on the beach and it doesn’t seem to matter much which Party or Parties are hogging the centre at any given time – the waves keep rolling in regardless.

                Thirdly, rorting happens at every level of society – the name and face are perhaps different but it is all the same, anyway.

    • Incognito 7.2

      The RMA reform and the Three Waters reform are highly (almost inextricably) intertwined. National is rejecting all of it, of course, because they want BAU.

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