Invitations to the racing trough are issued, barbecuers get a gas assurance and Robertson serves alphabet soup

Latest from the Beehive

Self-interest (we confess) triggered our reading of the speech delivered by Energy Minister Megan Woods to a Business New Zealand Energy Council breakfast.  We were rewarded with encouraging news (but it was not so encouraging when we took a second look).

Woods reassured New Zealanders that the Climate Change Committee’s recommendations on natural gas would not mean “the imminent end of the classic kiwi BBQ”.  The key word is imminent.

Woods said residential and commercial consumption of gas makes up a small proportion of our overall gas demand – about 9  per cent in 2019.

The question for the Government is how it can best support the phase-out of natural gas while ensuring that consumers get the energy they need.

“This will include considering what the most efficient emissions reductions areas may be within the market.

“For example, our current gas distribution infrastructure provides many opportunities for alternative lower emissions fuels to be used, including the use of biogas and hydrogen. These are all matters the Government will need to consider before making recommendations about the future of natural gas use in commercial and residential applications over the next thirty or so years.”

Having got the barbecue issue out of the way, Point of Order concedes that much bigger issues for the New Zealand economy were raised in the speech which has been posted on the Beehive website.

Good news for troughers has been posted, too.  Grant Robertson, as Minister of Racing, declared the Racing Safety Development Fund open for applications until the end of March.

The fund covers up to half the costs of a project with between $7,500 – $50,000 for each project.

RNZ reported a trough for journalists as we were writing this.  It has yet to be officially posted.

Other Beehive announcements are –

  • A significant expansion to the Government’s Flexi-wage initiative will support up to 40,000 New Zealanders into work.   Businesses can now receive an average of $7,500 per employee, although this amount will depend on individual circumstances.
  • New Zealand’s first batch of Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is set to arrive in New Zealand next week subject to transportation plans and quality temperature control.

Oh, and let’s not forget Grant Robertson popped up again with a speech to Local Government New Zealand Metro Sector that is as rich in information about the government’s policy intentions as Woods’ speech to the energy bunch.

Essentially, he was banging on about the big bucks from central government being pumped into infrastructure (cold comfort for ratepayers bracing for massive increases in their rate bills to pay for past negligence by councils that have given priority to wasteful glamour projects).

The government has booked and planned $42 billion of infrastructure investments for the next four years on top of the $25 billion of infrastructure investment made over the previous three years.

Robertson mentioned a raft of relevant issues and programmes –

The Infrastructure Commission – it is creating a 30 year infrastructure strategy for New Zealand.

The Infrastructure Funding and Financing Act – This will create “SPVs” to leverage the input of Government, Council and private sector investments while taking debt off Crown and Council balance sheets.  Once Robertson receives a recommendation that a project developer wants to use mechanisms under the Act, “CIP” will assess the proposal and Robertson will agree to an Order in Council for it to progress. nd willing to do that.

Fast track consenting – The Ministry for the Environment is running these.

Infrastructure Reference Group shovel-ready programme – the Government has announced 170 projects representing $2,6bn of government funding and $4.6bn in total project value across the country. More than $750m has gone towards council projects.

RMA reform –  the act will be replaced with three new laws this parliamentary term.

Housing – critical tools created in the government’s first term to boost housing supply included the National Policy Statement – Urban Development (or NPS-UD), which directs local councils to plan better for growth and to enable more intensification in urban areas, with affordable housing that is well-connected to jobs, public transport, community facilities and green spaces

Climate Change – Through the NPS-UD, councils are directed to give greater consideration to climate change, along with access and housing affordability, when shaping their plans. They also have to take transport into considerations (to encourage more people to leave their cars at home and reduce emissions) into considerations.

Three waters Reform – The Government has provided $523.1 million in stimulus funding for councils to invest in three waters service delivery and infrastructure, supplemented by $117.3 million in local government co-funding.  By December last year, all councils had received an initial 50 per cent allocation of Crown funding for critical works to get under way. The proposal to create publicly owned multi-regional water entities with balance sheet separation from councils will enable the advantages of scale, and more advantageous borrowing terms to fund infrastructure and services.

Whereas Ministers are increasingly inclined to lace their speeches with te reo (no matter how this impedes easy comprehension by most audiences), Robertson sprinkled acronyms through his speech to confound the uninitiated.

Among them  –

An SPV is a special purpose vehicle, a subsidiary created by a parent company to isolate financial risk. Its legal status as a separate company makes its  obligations secure even if the parent company goes bankrupt. It is typically created to fulfill narrow, specific or temporary objectives.

CIP probably is shorthand for Crown Infrastructure Partners Limited, formally called Crown Fibre Holdings, incorporated in 2009 under the Companies Act 1993. It works with four companies

“ … to deploy UFB across New Zealand)”

And at that point we waved the flag of surrender.  We shall leave it to readers to trawl through the alphabet soup used by Robertson on this occasion, but too often by politicians, bureaucrats and academics.  Do they really intend to make comprehension difficult?

In her speech, Woods reiterated that –  as we move into 2021 – dealing with COVID-19 continues to be a priority for our Government.

“Keeping the virus out, and New Zealanders safe is front and centre for us.”

We trust she has angrily drummed this into the Green Party MP who ignored government advice and, with the acquiescence of his party’s leaders, took off for Mexico in recent weeks.  Then he wanted to be regarded as an essential worker to facilitate his return to Parliament.

Yep.  Essential, like udders on a bull.

Woods’ speech mentioned the challenge of removing fossil fuels from our electricity system, while increasing electricity demand.

The New Zealand Battery project has been set up to address the issue of New Zealand’s lack of dry year storage in our electricity system.  The $30 million initial study will investigate pumped hydro to eliminate the need for fossil fuels in our electricity system.

The Lake Onslow and other smaller scale pumped hydro options are the focus of the study, with other technologies being assessed as comparators.

The Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry Fund (yes, this one is a $70 million trough) supports businesses by helping them adopt energy efficiency measures and switch from fossil fuels like coal and gas to clean energy for process heat.

Nationally consistent rules for regulating coal boilers and encouraging energy efficiency and best available technology across all existing sources of fossil fuels used by industry are being developed.  The aim is for national direction to be in force by the end of the year.

Woods also mentioned the liquidation of Tamarind requiring the Crown to step-in as a provider of last resort to fund decommissioning of the Tui oilfield (“a first for New Zealand and a new role for the Crown”). The costs to taxpayers will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Government accordingly is strengthening petroleum sector decommissioning provisions. Legislation is likely this year along with regulatory options.

The Minister had much more to say and to signal.  Readers should check out her speech HERE. 

Latest from the Beehive

12 FEBRUARY 2021

Prepared speech notes for LGNZ Metro Sector Meeting

Racing Safety Development Fund open for applications

New Zealand’s first COVID-19 vaccine to arrive earlier than expected

11 FEBRUARY 2021

Speech to Business Energy Council breakfast

40,000 New Zealanders to be supported back into work through Flexi-wage expansion

2 thoughts on “Invitations to the racing trough are issued, barbecuers get a gas assurance and Robertson serves alphabet soup

  1. I predict few of these ideas, waffle really, will come to fruition. Especially, the Minister of Energy Dr Woods’ ideas, she, like global warming, is all hot air. She talks a lot but does not deliver. All talk, no action will be the lasting memory of the St Jacinda regime.

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