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Hiringa Urea Appeal Result A Loss For Climate And Freshwater But Hiringa Can Still Do The Right Thing

Today, the Court of Appeal has ruled against Greenpeace in its challenge to the High Court’s ruling to greenlight consent for hydrogen expansion of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser production at the Kāpuni factory in Taranaki, but despite this ruling, Greenpeace is calling on Hiringa Energy to commit to a timeframe for transitioning from fertiliser production to transport fuel.

Greenpeace Aotearoa programme director Niamh O'Flynn says, "This is a loss for the climate and for fresh water in Aotearoa, as well as for local hapū of Ngāruahine, who also have issues with the project, but we call on Hiringa Energy to do the right thing and commit to a transition out of fertiliser production within five years as well as honouring the wishes of local hapū with regards to the location of the wind turbines."

"Climate justice is interconnected with te Tiriti justice, so working with iwi and hapū must be central to all new energy infrastructure developments. It is vital for the success of these projects to do right by local Māori and the environment," says O’Flynn.

Greenpeace and local hapū of Ngāruahine will regroup to determine the next course of action relating to the project.

With the support of Hapū of Ngāruahine in South Taranaki, Greenpeace opposed the proposal by fertiliser company Ballance Agrinutrients and Hiringa Energy to use wind power to generate ‘green’ hydrogen. The challenge concerned the consenting panel’s failure to lock in any fixed timeframe by which Hiringa must stop using the hydrogen plant for making synthetic nitrogen fertiliser (urea) and to instead transition its production to clean vehicle fuel only.

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O’Flynn says, "With their dogmatic refusal to put an end date on the proposed plant’s use for producing climate-killing urea, Hiringa and Ballance agri-nutrients are giving wind energy a bad name in one of the regions where important opportunities exist to use wind as a means of transition away from oil and gas."

"Of course, Greenpeace supports wind power and green hydrogen, but not if it’s being used to create the products that cause climate change, kill rivers and contaminate drinking water.

"Fonterra and the dairy industry are New Zealand’s biggest climate and freshwater polluters, and it is synthetic nitrogen fertiliser that drives that pollution," says O’Flynn.

Urea is the primary form of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, and to make it, you need hydrogen. For urea synthesis, hydrogen is the building block for ammonia compounds, which are used as a feedstock for urea production. In the process of making ammonia and urea, hydrogen is the most sought-after commodity because it does not freely exist in nature.

The Kapuni factory, built in 1982 under Robert Muldoon’s "Think Big" program, is the only place in New Zealand where urea is made. The dairy industry uses 63% of all synthetic nitrogen fertilisers in New Zealand (including those imported by the other fertiliser giant Ravensdown) to drive highly polluting forms of intensive animal farming.

Synthetic nitrogen fertiliser is added to the land to supercharge pasture growth so the land can be crammed with too many cows. Here in Aotearoa, it is directly responsible for more climate pollution than the entire domestic aviation industry. Synthetic nitrogen fertiliser is in large part responsible for pushing dairy farming to extreme levels of intensity - making dairying New Zealand’s most polluting industry of the land, freshwater, the climate and the marine coastal environment.

The dairy industry is New Zealand’s primary source of methane and nitrous oxide (from urea and cow excreta), which are superheating greenhouse gases - cooking the climate far faster than carbon dioxide. It is also the main cause of nitrate contamination of groundwater (from cow urine and urea) which is turning rural people’s drinking water carcinogenic.

O’Flynn says, "If we are to solve climate change and protect our rivers and drinking water sources, we need to phase out the use of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser and significantly reduce the number of dairy cows."

In 2022, Greenpeace deployed a 1500 sq metre 'cancer fertiliser' banner outside the Kapuni fertiliser factory in South Taranaki. The message highlights the link between synthetic nitrogen fertiliser and the cancer risk of nitrate-contaminated drinking water, and calls on the government to cut synthetic nitrogen.

Notes

The Court of Appeal Ruling can be downloaded here:

https://www.greenpeace.org/static/planet4-aotearoa-stateless/2023/12/988c12dd-2023-nzca-672-hiringa-greenpeace-appeal-court-ruling.pdf

Timeline

18 August 2021, Hiringa Energy lodged a resource consent application with the EPA.

Hiringa Energy Limited and Ballance Agri-Nutrients Limited applied to develop a renewable green hydrogen hub at Kapuni, Taranaki. Electricity will be generated by four wind turbines to provide baseload power to nearby Ballance Agri-Nutrients Kapuni ammonia-urea manufacturing plant, and produce hydrogen from water via electrolysis.

02 November 2021 - Greenpeace made a submission with F&B and EDS arguing that the consent for the Kapuni Green Hydrogen Project project should be rejected on the grounds that its primary purpose is the production of urea that will worsen outcomes nationally for the climate; environment; coastal and freshwater quality; air quality; indigenous biodiversity; and the wellbeing of current and future generations. And that it would also undermine New Zealand’s efforts to mitigate climate change and transition more quickly to a low-emissions economy.

03 December 2021 - The project is given the green light

April 2022 - Te Korowai o Ngāruahine Trust filed notice to appeal the decision of the panel to grant resource consent to the project. Greenpeace filed to be party to the appeal arguing that the panel failed in law to take environmental impacts of urea use into consideration, and by not making the project conditional on the transition to hydrogen production for transport.

31 October 2022 - The High Court dismissed the appeal

11 November 2022 - Greenpeace, backed by hapū of Ngāruahine in South Taranaki, filed a notice of Appeal against the approval of Hiringa’s hydrogen-to-urea consent, arguing that the High Court erred in failing to find that the Consenting Panel’s decision to place no conditions on whether, when, and how the project transitioned from fertiliser feedstock production to hydrogen fuel production, was a breach of the Covid-19 Recovery Fast-Track Consenting Act.

23 May 2023 - Greenpeace is in the Court of Appeal with parties to the action: hapū of Ōkahu-Inuāwai me ētehi atu hapū, Ngāti Tū, Ngāti Tamāhuroa-Titahi, Ngāti Haua and Kanihi Umutahi me ētehi atu hapū.

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