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Fast-tracking Hiringa-Ballance Kapuni Hydrogen Project

The Environmental Protection Authority is processing the consents application lodged jointly by Hiringa Energy and Ballance Agri-Nutrients under the COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020. The project aims to establish a so-called green hydrogen hub in Kapuni, including new infrastructure for hydrogen production, storage, offtake and refueling, and four colossal wind turbines taller than the Ngamotu chimney. The project requires consents for land-use, water take and contaminant discharge, without public notification.

“Hydrogen technology is not a new energy but an inefficient energy storage system that requires huge amounts of energy which is better used directly instead. It requires investment in expensive new infrastructure and involves splitting wai which goes against tikanga Maori. We desperately need to invest in real climate solutions for relocalised economies rather than greenwashing and delay tactics by polluting industries that want to continue industrial fertilizer production, heavy trucking and international shipping. It was described as a public delusion 20 years ago, and it still is,” said Tuhi-Ao Emily Bailey, spokesperson of Climate Justice Taranaki.

“Hydrogen storage, loadout and refueling are significant hazardous activities. It is not clear that we have all the rules and capacity to limit and manage the health and safety risks involved. The Ministry of Transport’s analyses acknowledge that battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are three times more energy efficient than hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and central government funding is needed to de-risk private sector investment. There appears to be no proven economic case for it. The four colossal wind turbines will be seen in front of the maunga from a large part of the South Taranaki district with no public input,” explained Sarah Roberts, spokesperson of Taranaki Energy Watch.

Under schedule 6 section 17 of the Covid-19 Recovery (Fast-Track Consenting) Act, no public or limited notification is allowed. Only the local authorities, iwi, the land owners/occupiers of the land, the immediate neighbours, and a short list of NGOs may be invited to comment on the application, by October 21st in this case.

“Our group has submitted on the Fast-track Bill and raised serious concerns over hydrogen formally on many occasions. Yet we are not invited to have a say on this project in our rohe. If you belong to one of the entities invited to comment on the application, please consider carefully, ask questions and seek advice,” Bailey urged.

There are numerous flaws in the Fast-Track Act, notably the erosion of public participation. Yet the government is rushing through an omnibus bill to extend this Act for another year (till July 2023) and defer the announcement of the first emissions budget by five months, among other things. The bill was introduced to parliament on September 28th, with submissions closing tomorrow October 5th, allowing just five working days for public inputs.

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