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Marion Hobbs Speech - NZ Wind Energy Association


SPEECH NOTES
Minister for the Environment
HON MARIAN HOBBS
to
New Zealand Wind Energy Association
Air New Zealand Suite
Wellington Convention Centre
Wellington
25 May 2000, 11.10 a.m.

Ladies and gentlemen. I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak to you today.

Wind energy and renewable energy in general, have a vital role to play in New Zealand's energy future for a number of reasons:
 It is clearly recognised that New Zealand has excellent conditions for renewable energy.
 Renewable energy generally has lower environmental impacts than conventional electricity generation technologies.
 And the cost of many renewable energy technologies is dropping.

I look forward to the day when I can turn my light on and know that the electricity comes from environmentally-friendly, renewable energy generation technology like wind.

I would like to cover two issues in this speech:
 The role of wind energy in helping New Zealand to achieve its climate change commitments
 The relationship between the Resource Management Act and wind energy generation.
Climate change
As I said to the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group 1 meeting in February, the issue of climate change is one that no government can ignore. More recently, the Prime Minister commented, and I quote, “Industrialisation has taken its toll on the very conditions which support all human life. The potential consequences of this process for future generations, if left unchecked, are bleak indeed. New Zealand needs to play its part on the climate change issue by ratifying the Kyoto Protocol”.

Climate change could have major impacts on our whole economy and ecology. New Zealand, being a country substantially dependent upon primary production, is particularly vulnerable to weather events, with the 1997/1998 El Niño drought estimated to have resulted in an economic impact of the order of one billion dollars. Information on expected changes in the frequency and severity of such climate extremes is of great interest to many New Zealanders.

It was remarked in the Speech from the Throne at the opening of Parliament that New Zealand needs to improve its record in greenhouse gas control and its knowledge of the impact of climate change. In response to the climate change issue there is a lot of work underway. We have already shown political leadership in this area. For example, the Prime Minister announced earlier this month the Government's intention to ratify the Kyoto Protocol by June 2002, when the Rio Plus Ten Earth Summit meets.

As you are no doubt aware, The Kyoto Protocol, formulated in December 1997, commits developed countries to reduce their collective emissions of the six main greenhouse gases by at least five per cent, based on the 1990 level of emissions.

The Protocol will become binding only when at least 55 countries, including developed countries accounting for at least 55 per cent of developed countries' carbon dioxide emissions, have ratified it.

Ratification in New Zealand will need to be preceded by passage of legislation and policy changes supporting a programme of emissions reduction in accordance with the targets specified at Kyoto.

New Zealand's target under the Kyoto Protocol is to hold emissions, on average, at 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. The protocol does allow some flexibility in how we do this. You have asked what changes will assist wind energy to contribute to New Zealand meeting its targets under the Kyoto protocol: A carbon charge? Policy of no more fossil fuel generation? Specific targets for wind energy generation? Grid payments for embedded generation? They will all be considered as the government develops its climate change policy. In all probability a mix of price and non-price measures will be required.

The Prime Minister's press release on 8 May, mentioned that the legislative and policy timetable the government has set leading to ratification of the Protocol by New Zealand is a tight one.

A ministerial group has been established to oversee the development of a climate change action programme. The group will be convened by the Minister of Energy, Forestry, Research, Science and Technology, Pete Hodgson. Its membership will also include me as the Minister for the Environment, the Deputy Prime Minister, and the Ministers of Finance, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Agriculture, Associate Environment and Transport.

I anticipate that by the end of this year the Cabinet will have considered papers setting out policy direction and policy measures for immediate implementation.

New Zealand's contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is not large, but we are committed to doing our share to reduce emissions. We depend on the emissions reductions of other countries to protect our climate – indeed we all depend on each other. We recognise that the Kyoto Protocol is only a partial response. Eventually all major emitting nations must be involved and the international process will need to find a way to develop a fully global response.

New Zealand is a good international citizen. The government recognises that in order to minimise the impact of climate change on New Zealand and our region, we must encourage other countries to participate actively in the international effort on climate change. The way we are addressing our emissions domestically not only establishes our credibility in this effort, but also can be a positive model for others.

Ratification of the Kyoto Protocol will position New Zealand to be up with the leaders on climate change and play a small but worthy role in bequeathing future generations a more sustainable world.

Achieving our Kyoto targets will require effort from every sector - particularly those that show the strongest growth in emissions, such as transport. Increasing the use of renewable energy such as wind is part of the answer. I have already said that to achieve this, a variety of price and non-price measures will be needed. Information and education, along with partnerships, will be crucial in addressing the major risks to New Zealand of climate change.

Measures that will be taken include work on the impact of climate change, increased public education programmes, greater investment in public transport, and stronger measures on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Finally, I would like to say a word about public awareness. It is vital that there is greater awareness of the threat of climate change and the impact, here and abroad. Such awareness is necessary if we, as a community, are to summon the will to do something about it, and – where necessary – find sensible ways to adapt to what we cannot mitigate.

The Resource Management Act 1991 and wind energy
I would like to turn now to the implications of the Resource Management Act on wind energy generation in New Zealand. I will first give an overview of the Resource Management Act, before turning to its interface with wind energy.

The Government is very supportive of the greater use of renewable energy in New Zealand. However, it is important that the opportunities for the establishment of wind energy production in the wider environmental context and its legislative framework are considered and understood.

The Resource Management Act is an important piece of legislation that influences our lives every day. It establishes an enabling, environmentally conscious framework for the sustainable management of New Zealand's natural and physical resources. In practice, this is a framework within which the environmental effects of our activities can be identified, assessed and properly dealt with at a local level.

The Resource Management Act does not intend to prevent progress, innovation or economic growth, nor is it about making decisions about the merits of a particular land use over those of a potential competitor use.

Rather, the underlying assumption is that any use, development or subdivision should proceed if there are no adverse environmental effects, or if those effects can be avoided, remedied or mitigated.

The Resource Management Act requires that use and development of our natural and physical resources must be managed in a way that enables people and their communities to provide for their social, economic, and cultural well being, and for their health and safety, while avoiding, remedying or mitigating any adverse effects of the activities on the environment.

To help decision makers and others to achieve this, the Act sets out a number of explicit principles, which must be recognised and provided for. Some of these include the preservation of the natural character of the coastal environment, the protection of outstanding natural features and landscapes from inappropriate development, and the relationship of Maori to their culture and traditions with their ancestral lands, water, sites, waahi tapu and other taonga. Decision makers must also take into account the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

One of the Resource Management Act's underlying principles is that decision making is best left to those who are directly affected by the results of those decisions, and the RMA devolves the decision making to local and regional authorities. These authorities are responsible for implementing the bulk of the RMA and managing their natural and physical resources through the preparation and implementation of district and regional plans.

District and regional plans are prepared on behalf of the community, and in consultation with the community. These plans set out how the adverse effects of activities are to be managed, and the environmental outcomes the community desires. They also set out other non-regulatory approaches that Councils will take to deal with environmental issues.

It is through these plans that Councils identify the district's significant resource management issues, and set out objectives, policies and methods to address these issues. These plans indicate activities that are permitted, and the conditions that such activities have to comply with. These plans also identify which activities require a resource consent before they can be established.

The point is that the Resource Management Act sets out the broad framework for sustainable management of our natural and physical resources. The discretion as to how this is implemented lies at the local and regional levels of government. It is almost entirely over to the local and regional authorities as to how they manage the effects of activities within their districts.

Turning to the specific opportunities for wind energy production in New Zealand, as I previously mentioned, there can be no doubt that this government is very supportive of greater use of renewable energy in New Zealand's energy mix.

However, regardless of this, you cannot escape the fact that the establishment of wind energy production methods can be a significant exercise, and can have adverse effects on the natural and physical environment. Broadly speaking, these adverse effects are predominantly visual effects on the surrounding landscape, effects arising from noise from the operation of wind turbines, or effects associated with their construction and maintenance, such as traffic movements or earthworks.

Like the effects of any other activity, these effects must be managed, and are done so through the framework set up by the Resource Management Act, and the objectives, policies, methods and rules contained primarily in district and regional plans.

It cannot have escaped your notice that no two district plans are alike. Each is a recognition of the resource management issues in their own district and a record of the way communities seek to manage the effects of activities. And that is good, because communities differ and decisions taken closest to the community should be more durable, given stronger access by the community to the decision makers.

However, for all their differences, many district plans across New Zealand do provide opportunity for the establishment of wind energy production in their district plans.

Wind generation activities are often classified as discretionary activities in many rural zones. This means that while they require a resource consent application, (which is not to be unexpected where projects are often large scale), the effects of the proposal can be adequately assessed against the policies and objectives in the district plan, and the purpose and principles in the Resource Management Act.

For example, in the Wellington region alone, the South Wairarapa District Plan, the Porirua City District Plan, the Proposed District Plans for Lower Hutt and Wellington City all indirectly make provision for wind generation activities in this manner. While it is likely that such an application will be publicly notified, this is not always the case and depends upon the nature and location of the proposal. For example, the South Wairarapa District Council approved the Hau Nui wind farm on a non-notified basis.

I have heard some criticism that the Resource Management Act contains impediments to the development of wind energy production in New Zealand. I consider this to be a far cry from the reality where the Resource Management Act sets up the environmental framework for local and regional authorities to assess and manage the effects of activities within their districts, in a sustainable manner. As with any new activity requiring a resource consent, attention must be given to the manner in which the application is made, the location and surrounding environment, the components of the proposal, identification of the effects upon the environment and the consultation with affected parties. And if I can offer one piece of advice, it would be that you cannot underestimate the importance of building public support for wind generation. People do not like landfills, but they realise the necessity. As the need for renewable energy sources grows and is understood by communities, then the weighing up of alternatives becomes easier.

In summary, the Government is very supportive of the greater use of renewable energy in New Zealand. However, the establishment of wind energy projects can have adverse effects on the natural and physical environment. I am comfortable that the Resource Management Act provides a sound framework and opportunity for local communities to provide for such activities, while considering and mitigating the adverse effects on the natural and physical environment.

May wind energy in New Zealand have a productive and successful future. Thank you.

ENDS

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