Chapter 3: Why does the government need to enable feasibility activity now?

Early developer interest needs to be managed in a way that benefits Aotearoa New Zealand

Offshore renewable energy infrastructure is long-lived and could become a critical part of our national electricity system. It is therefore important for the government to carefully select both the developer and the development to meet Aotearoa New Zealand’s national interests. This includes examining a
developer’s technical and financial competence to deliver the project on time and meet Aotearoa New Zealand’s renewable energy objectives; the potential environmental impacts from the development; and the range of benefits that may be realised for Aotearoa New Zealand, such as through job creation and skills development, supply chain development, and technology innovation.

On potential environmental impacts, the research undertaken during the feasibility stage will provide significant insight into Aotearoa New Zealand’s marine environment and will assist with understanding and quantifying the potential for positive or adverse effects. Governments around the world are
increasingly examining offshore wind projects at the feasibility stage to ensure that developers collect appropriate data and complete a detailed environmental impact assessment prior to seeking relevant consents to construct.

Under current regulatory settings, the most significant developer interaction with the resource management system occurs at construction when consents will be required under the Resource
Management Act 1991 (RMA) and/or Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012 (EEZ Act). (There are currently limited regulatory requirements for developers undertaking feasibility activities. Activities can range from being ‘permitted’ to ‘controlled’ under the EEZ Act and relevant regional coastal plans.)

Consent applications under these Acts are processed in the order in which they are received ie on a ‘first-in, first-served’ basis, and the focus is on promoting the sustainable management of natural resources.

There is currently no appropriate system for assessing the suitability of offshore renewable energy developers to operate in Aotearoa New Zealand, or for comparing proposed developments against each other. Despite this, developers are beginning initial activity now. Without a specific approach to enabling feasibility, there is a risk that developments will be assessed without adequate information and the ability for the government to judge the most appropriate development and developer.

Providing for Māori interests in the moana

The moana (ocean) around Aotearoa New Zealand is of significant cultural and economic value to Māori. As Te Tiriti partners and citizens of Aotearoa, Māori may have a broad range of interests in the development of an offshore renewable energy industry. We understand that recognising these interests is integral to assessing feasibility.

The moana has spiritual significance to Māori as it plays a critical role in informing whakapapa and turangawaewae (belonging). It provides ancestral connection to Māori from the rohe it embodies and, in te ao Māori, cannot be viewed purely as a commodity. It is important that developers understand the spiritual significance of the moana, and that it is often local marae who will have a deep
understanding of the mātauranga and tikanga for that moana.

As kaitaki (guardians) of the moana in their rohe, certain iwi, hapū and whānau will have heightened interests in how offshore areas are used from an intergenerational perspective. As mana moana they have a responsibility to preserve and protect taonga in their rohe. Mana moana hold vast amounts of knowledge – mātauranga Māori - of the flora and fauna in their rohe. For example, the migratory patterns of Tītī (muttonbird) – a New Zealand native bird common to coastal New Zealand south of
Banks Penninsula with economic, social and cultural importance in te ao Māori – have been studied by Ngāi Tahu for centuries. Development in this area could have an impact on such species and will therefore need to involve the participation of mana moana.

Māori also have legally recognised customary interests under the Te Takutai Moana Act 2011 and Ngā Rohe Moana o Ngā Hapū o Ngāti Porou Act 2019 (takutai moana legislation), Treaty of Waitangi settlement legislation, and relevant case law which need to be preserved.

Equitable economic opportunities for development

Mana moana have continuously expressed a strong desire to work with developers to ensure their interests, knowledge and aspirations are appropriately considered and given effect. Māori want equitable opportunities to be involved in all aspects of the feasibility process and assurance that developers understand Te Tiriti o Waitangi, tikanga principles, mātauranga Māori and the interests of mana moana. Māori are also interested to explore the potential economic benefits to their communities from the construction and operation of offshore renewables.

Without a specific approach to feasibility, it is unlikely that the Government can ensure an appropriate level of involvement in the preparation of feasibility assessments, and identification of existing rights and interests.

To invest in feasibility activities, developers want certainty

Experienced offshore wind developers are seeking to support Aotearoa New Zealand’s emissions reduction targets through a greater supply of renewable energy. As these developments can take a decade or longer, developers want to commence their feasibility activities now.

The data gathered during feasibility would assist a developer in the preparation of relevant consent applications and any other permissions that may be required to construct. As noted above, these applications are processed under the RMA and EEZ Act in the order in which they are received.

Feasibility activities can cost tens of millions of dollars, especially in a new market like Aotearoa New Zealand. Developers are seeking confidence to invest in the preparation of relevant consent applications without the potential for a different developer gaining priority over them through a first in-time consent application over the same location.

Maintaining consistency with international obligations

New Zealand is party to a number of international treaties and conventions that impact how we use and manage the marine area. Key to the issues raised by offshore renewable energy development is the obligations under United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982. This convention stipulates rights and obligations on members states relating to territorial sovereignty, environmental protection and decommissioning infrastructure in the territorial sea and the Exclusive Economic Zone. A more detailed summary of the rights and obligations of members states under UNCLOS is provided in Annex 4.

Annex 4: Aotearoa New Zealand’s international obligations

Regulations need to be timely

Finally, internationally many countries are moving at speed to leverage their low-emissions resources and as a result, global demand for offshore renewable energy construction is significant and growing. If early feasibility activity is not enabled, Aotearoa New Zealand risks slower access to offshore renewable energy technology to support us to meet our climate ambitions.

The Government has prioritised developing fit-for-purpose regulatory settings for offshore renewable energy by July 2024 and may implement them sooner where it is feasible and desirable to do so.

Policy objectives and criteria

The policy objectives for enabling feasibility activities are to:

  • enable selection of both the developer and the development to meet Aotearoa New Zealand’s national interests, including appropriate safeguards and benefits for the environment
  • enable Māori participation in offshore renewable energy development
  • provide certainty for developers to invest in the short term, and
  • ensure New Zealand remains competitive and can secure access to offshore renewable energy technology in a timely way.

Based on this, we will use the following criteria to assess the proposals outlined in this document:

  • Effectiveness: Will the proposals effectively meet the policy objectives described above, especially around selecting developers and developments and enabling Māori participation?
  • Certainty: Do the proposals provide sufficient certainty for developers to invest in Aotearoa New Zealand?
  • Timeliness: Can the proposals be implemented in a timely manner so that Aotearoa New Zealand remains competitive internationally?

1. Do you agree with the proposed objectives outlined above? Why or why not?

2. Are there other objectives that we should consider that are not captured above? If so, what are they are why are they important?

3. Do you agree with the proposed criteria for assessing the proposals for regulating offshore renewable energy? Why or why not?

4. Are there other criteria that we should consider that are not captured above? If so, what are they are why are they important?

5. Do you agree that the criteria should be equally weighted? Why or why not?