Woods protects taxpayers from oil and gas decommissioning costs – but she invites applications to dip into a $3.8bn housing trough, too

One Beehive announcement from Megan Woods steers the public to around $1 billion sloshing around in a $3.8 billion trough in her Housing bailiwick by announcing  eligibility criteria. Partnership with Maori will be helpful for those who are keen to line up for a slice of the action.

Another announcement from Megan Woods, Minister of Energy and Resources this time, shows the Government wants to ease the burden on  taxpayers by

“… preventing taxpayers picking up the bill for the decommissioning of oil fields”.

Whether legislation can “prevent” taxpayers from picking up the bill seems to be a moot point.

But Woods wants to give it a go through a Bill introduced to Parliament today which imposes an explicit statutory obligation on petroleum permit and licence holders to carry out and fund the decommissioning of petroleum fields.

There was a double dose of health stuff on the Beehive website.

First, New Zealand’s Quarantine Free Travel from New South Wales to New Zealand is to be paused while the source of infection of new cases announced in Sydney is investigated.

Second, Health Minister Andrew Little delivered a speech in which he spoke of the government’s vision to create a smarter, fairer health system and its examination of every aspect of our system structure, services, workforce and infrastructure to find “how can we do better?” Climate change loomed large in the matters he discussed.

Little popped up, too, to announce the introduction of legislation which will give effect to another Treaty settlement.

The announcement on measures to take pressure off the public purse relates to new proposals in a Bill designed to close a loophole that enabled Tamarind to acquire the Tui permit without the government being able to assess its capabilities.

The Bill strengthens the regulatory framework and building on changes to the Crown Minerals Act made in February 2019.

Woods said:

“This Bill takes a long-term view and requires petroleum permit and licence holders to make payments towards any future remediation that may be needed to wells and any infrastructure left in place, after decommissioning has been completed.

“Decommissioning fields is an issue governments are grappling with the world over as we transition away from fossil fuels. As New Zealand’s oil and gas fields approach the end of their productive lives it is imperative to have a regime that is up to the job.”

Regulations to support changes in the Bill are likely to be consulted on so that they can come into effect as soon practicable after the Bill is passed.

Having spared taxpayers an expense on the energy front, Woods invited eligible applicants to line up for a lick at the contents of the $3.8 billion Housing Acceleration Fund (HAF), announced in March.

Woods announced that eligibility criteria are now available and an invitation for expressions of interest will be released on 30 June.

She said:

“The housing supply crisis is a problem decades in the making that will take time to turn around, but we are starting to make inroads on increasing supply and this fund will make a real difference to increasing the supply of housing by assisting in overcoming a key barrier to building – access to basic infrastructure.”  

The IAF will be opened up to councils, Iwi and developers and will prioritise funding for:

  • Brownfield intensification and greenfield expansion with access to amenities and opportunities.
  • Developments where infrastructure investments might otherwise not be funded or not funded quickly enough to meet housing demand.
  • A spread of projects across multiple regions including large urban areas and regional centres.
  • Value for money through co-funding, contributions and commitments from third parties, including local councils.
  • A steady pipeline of construction activity,
  • Alignment with wider government objectives such as good urban planning, partnerships with iwi and Māori and transition to a net zero emissions economy.

“Not every application will be funded; we have weighted the fund to support projects that will deliver the most houses where they are most needed,” Megan Woods said.

The full Housing Acceleration Fund has already ring-fenced $350 million for a Māori Infrastructure Fund.

Final decisions are yet to be made on how the full fund will be used.

Together with the new $2 billion borrowing capacity for Kāinga Ora, central Government would help stimulate tens of thousands of house builds, Woods said.

Latest from the Beehive

Environment

Bill to stop taxpayers having to fund oil field decommissions

Proposals in a Bill introduced to Parliament today will require petroleum permit and licence holders to carry out and fund decommissioning of petroleum fields.

The legislation will apply to current and future permit and licence holders and extend the obligation to fund decommissioning to former permit and licence holders if a permit is transferred after the Bill is enacted.

The Bill will also enable more effective monitoring of a permit or licence holder’s financial position and plans for field development.  It will require permit and licence holders to maintain a financial security that can be used for decommissioning purposes if required, expand enforcement powers across petroleum and minerals activities and make other minor and technical changes.

The Bill will enable the Minister to consider several factors, including the circumstances of a particular permit or licence holder, when determining the amount and type of financial security required.

Only companies with sufficient financial and technical capability will be able to acquire a permit in New Zealand.

The government expects the Bill will be passed late in 2021.

Travel bubble

Quarantine Free Travel from New South Wales to New Zealand to pause

 New Zealand’s Quarantine Free Travel from New South Wales to this country will be paused while the source of infection of new cases announced in Sydney is investigated.

The pause came into force at 11.59pm NZT and will be in place for 72 hours initially. It will be under constant review.

New Zealand health officials are also updating their advice for anyone already in New Zealand who has recently visited Sydney’s Westfield Bondi Junction mall.

This follows a new case of COVID-19 reported in Sydney yesterday, connected to the busy mall, which is popular with locals and New Zealand visitors.

Information about Quarantine Free Travel between New South Wales and New Zealand is available on the COVID-19 website.

Treaty settlement

Ngāti Rangitihi Claims Settlement Bill passes first reading

Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Andrew Little welcomed Ngāti Rangitihi to Parliament yesterday to witness the first reading of The Ngāti Rangitihi Claims Settlement Bill.

Ngāti Rangitihi is a Te Arawa iwi based in and around Rotorua, Kaingaroa and Matatā, and has about 5,600 registered members.

Ngāti Rangitihi’s historical grievances include the Crown’s failure to act in good faith when leasing and purchasing Ngāti Rangitihi land blocks, excessive land taking at Te Ariki for Public Works and a failure to ensure Ngāti Rangitihi had sufficient land to support themselves in the aftermath of the Tarawera eruption.

The settlement includes an acknowledgement, apology and redress for the Crown’s historical breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi. Ngāti Rangitihi will receive financial and commercial redress valued at over $11 million, including $4 million financial redress and more than $7 million in commercial redress on-account through the 2008 Central North Island Forests Iwi Collective Settlement.

Cultural redress includes the vesting of 19 sites of cultural significance, including the Waimangu Volcanic Valley.

Through the settlement the Crown acknowledges and apologises for failing to protect the Tarawera River from pollution associated with the Tasman Pulp and Paper mill. The settlement provides for the establishment of the Tarawera Awa Restoration Strategy Group, made up of iwi and local government representatives, that will support, coordinate and promote the integrated restoration of the mauri/wellbeing of the Tarawera River catchment.

A copy of the Deed of Settlement is available at www.govt.nz/treaty-settlement-documents/ngati-rangitihi/ and the Ngāti Rangitihi Claims Settlement Bill can be found here: https://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/government/2021/0017/latest/LMS466149.html

Health

Speech to the Sustainable Healthcare and Climate Health Conference Aotearoa

Health Minister Andrew Little spoke about the government’s system-wide health reforms that will result in transformational change.

Sustainability must be at the core of every decision, he said, noting that our health service runs 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week and our hospitals use a lot of water and energy.

In fact, health is the largest emitter of carbon emissions in the public sector, so we recognise that the sustainability challenge ahead is a big one, requiring all of us to do our part.”

Housing

Infrastructure Acceleration Fund opening for business

Criteria to access at least $1 billion of the $3.8 billion Housing Acceleration Fund (HAF), announced in March, is now available.  An invitation for expressions of interest will be released on 30 June.

The Infrastructure Acceleration Fund is designed to allocate funding to infrastructure projects that will unlock housing development in the short to medium-term.

Woods said:

“It will jump-start housing developments by funding necessary services, like roads and pipes to homes, which are currently holding up development.”

Eligible projects include the new or upgrading of infrastructure for drinking water, wastewater, sewage, roading, and flood management, which wholly or primarily enable the building of new and additional homes.

Eligible costs include early-stage feasibility studies, design, consenting and in some cases land costs.

In major urban environments (Tier 1) such as Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch, projects will be expected to deliver at least 200 additional homes.

In other urban centres (Tier 2) such as Rotorua, Palmerston North and Nelson, projects will be expected to deliver at least 100 additional homes. In other areas of the country, projects should result in at least 30 new homes.

Further decisions on the Fund will be made throughout the year.

One thought on “Woods protects taxpayers from oil and gas decommissioning costs – but she invites applications to dip into a $3.8bn housing trough, too

  1. Can we have any confidence that this Government could enact watertight legislation to prevent the Developers liquidating and skipping without meeting their obligations? They would have little incentive to leave with a solid reputation to attract future engagement.

    Like

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