Outcome 4: Value is sustainably derived from the natural environment
Aotearoa New Zealand’s natural environment is important to the country’s sense of identity and has great cultural and recreational significance. It is essential to the economy and our way of life.
Kaihāpai (being a guardian or to protect) and kaitiakitanga (stewardship) are important to the way MBIE considers its responsibilities, particularly around sustainability. We work to make sure Aotearoa New Zealand’s natural resources are used in a sustainable way so they can continue to benefit New Zealanders for generations to come. We also take a systems approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation, supporting businesses and regions to transition to more sustainable products and services, and encouraging New Zealanders to live sustainably.
For MBIE, as an economic development agency, a priority is that climate change strategy and policy are aligned with the broader economic strategy of a high wage low-emissions economy. As part of the Just Transition Programme, the Government partners with businesses, communities, iwi and workers to drive the transition to a low-emissions, high wage economy. In May 2023, the Government announced a $108 million investment in Southland’s just transition. The announcement comes after 2 years of planning, delivered in partnership with regional leaders from iwi, local government, business, unions, the education and primary sectors, and community.
In addition, the Just Transition Programme supported Taranaki stakeholders to plan and manage the region’s transition in response to the Government’s decision to stop new oil and gas exploration. The $2.7 million in funding culminated in the region’s plan, Taranaki 2050 Roadmap, outlining the areas of focus and initiatives to transition the region to a renewable energy future, with a particular focus on supporting iwi involvement.
Supporting transition to cleaner energy
The Government’s energy strategies focus on transitioning the country to reach 100% renewable electricity by 2035 and to be a net zero carbon emitter by 2050. This year, Standards New Zealand, an independent business unit within MBIE, has supported this transition and the goal for environmental sustainability through several significant initiatives, including:
- Putting together a framework for hydrogen standards implementation. Hydrogen is emerging as an important technology that could help to achieve the sustainability targets by ‘decarbonising’ the economy.
- Creating guidance for the use and installation of residential and commercial electric vehicle (EV) chargers. Along with colleagues at the Ministry of Transport, we led consultation on an EV charging strategy, Charging our Future, from March to May 2023. The strategy sets out the Government’s long-term vision for national EV charging infrastructure and makes sure access to charging options is not a barrier to EV uptake.
- Supporting the use of timber as a renewable and carbon negative resource for structures.
- Creating a set of guidelines, alongside the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, to help people understand what a smart home is and how to create one.
This year, as part of our work to encourage New Zealanders to live sustainably, the third funding round of the Support for Energy Education in Communities Programme saw $1.7 million being made available for community groups, organisations and businesses to apply for. This funding supports the delivery of energy education and low-cost energy saving devices to households in need that want to bring down their power bills. The first 2 funding rounds resulted in more than 6,500 households receiving free energy education, and more than 67,000 low-cost energy saving items, like LEDs, being handed out. A further $2.95 million of funding through the programme will be available in 2023/24.
This year, amendments were proposed to the Crown Minerals Act 1991, to support more environmentally conscious management of resources. Under the amendments, the Act no longer actively promotes prospecting, exploration and mining of Crown owned minerals. The increased flexibility in the management of Crown owned resources enables development to be promoted where there is a need and minimised where there is not. The amendments bring the Act up to date, allow us to respond to the evolving national needs, and give the sector greater certainty about the future of minerals decision making. Fossil fuels will be phased out in a way that makes sure energy remains secure, reliable, accessible and affordable for all New Zealanders.
MBIE is kaitiaki of a large volume of geoscience data, much of which is now available through a new online system, the Geodata Catalogue. The new system is more functional, regulated parties can upload data directly into the system and it includes an interactive map to allow viewers to explore and download datasets. This move to Cloud based solutions is in line with MBIE’s Digital Blueprint programme.
Several of the initiatives in this section are actions included in Aotearoa New Zealand’s first Emissions Reduction Plan and National Adaptation Plan, which were released in 2022. Both plans set ambitious targets to reduce Aotearoa New Zealand’s emissions to meet the country’s Paris obligations and support the transition to a thriving, climate resilient economy. Consequently, MBIE is significantly involved in delivering the country’s climate change objectives from each plan, leading or co-leading over 40% of the Emissions Reduction Plan actions, and 15% of those in the National Adaptation Plan. The breadth of the ambition in each plan touches many of MBIE’s portfolios, from the decarbonisation of the electricity sector to research, science and innovation, to Just Transitions to improving building standards to a circular economy. Further examples of recent initiatives include:
- Partnering with Air New Zealand to investigate the feasibility of producing sustainable aviation fuel in Aotearoa New Zealand.
- Partnering with NZ Steel to purchase a new electric arc furnace for the Glenbrook Steel Mill eliminating 800,000 tonnes of carbon per year.
MBIE is focused on evidence based policy and advice to make the best decisions for the future of the country. We work with other public sector agencies, industry groups, the science and innovation sector, and communities to deliver better outcomes for New Zealanders and to support Aotearoa New Zealand’s transition to a climate resilient, low-emissions, high wage economy.