Oil and gas policy the Government’s biggest gamble


A few weeks ago the Zero Carbon Act passed through Parliament with assistance from National. It might have been a great day for the political career of Green Party co-leader James Shaw, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the environmental faction then. But it comes at considerable long term risk that cannot be ignored in the provinces.

Several provinces will be directly impacted by the move away from fossil fuels. None more so than Taranaki, but Westland (coal) and Northland (refinery) are hot on its heels.

I honestly do not think the Government has thought it through. A broad, grand brush stroke is meaningless without substantive policy and matching investment in alternatives, which at this stage does not appear to be something viewed as a priority by either the Minister for Energy and Resources Dr Megan Wood or the Prime Minister.

I have stated my ideas about what should happen clearly. A potential hydrogen plant support a transition away from petroleum; the exploration of hemp as a building material since concrete manufacture releases a lot of carbon dioxide; waste to energy as an alternative source of electricity among others. I am believer in the green technological revolution and I believe New Zealand has the means and the know how to show other small nations how they can transition to a more sustainable energy platform. I am believer because there are jobs to be had, research to be done which will draw in skilled workers and infrastructure projects – should that research be positive – that could go ahead.

Since the announcement, I have heard little from Dr Woods, Ms Ardern or Mr Shaw on how they might mitigate the economic impact that they must surely know is going to be had on the country. They must surely be aware that National is going to push the economic consequences of this as hard as it can as it seeks to wrest back control of Government from Labour-Greens and New Zealand First.

To be sure the Government has passed the Zero Carbon Act, with National Party assistance on the understanding National will make changes when it next wins the election. But little has been said about developing a working group or other framework to steer this change. Nothing has been said about obvious minor steps such as recycling aluminium to reduce electricity consumption, some of which are also quite easy steps to take.

Overall I feel that this is the Government’s biggest gamble. It might pay off if it sets a precedent for other countries to follow, but I get the feeling that New Zealanders are not going to come on board until they see a plan, irrespective of what Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace and other N.G.O.s might think about this. People are understandably concerned about their incomes, being able to provide for their families and make sure that their children have all of their needs provided for.

Unless this gamble is given some solid policy to back it up with aside from the Zero Carbon Act, I believe this is the gamble that might cost the Sixth Labour Government the election.