Thursday, May 23, 2024

Natural hydrogen must be free of Treaty claims says Minister

Natural hydrogen could be a game-changing new source of energy for New Zealand but needs to be treated as a critical development that benefits all New Zealanders, Resources Minister, Shane Jones said today.

Mr Jones is seeking to give regulatory certainty for those keen to develop natural, or geological, hydrogen in New Zealand as a potential additional tool to ensure energy resilience.

“I am disappointed to hear special iwi pleading from Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. Hydrogen is a resource that must not be embroiled in a new bout of Waitangi Tribunal ownership claims. Climate change challenges have no respect for ethnic divides,” he said.

Mr Jones said the Coalition Government was committed to ensuring energy settings allow for the exploration of natural hydrogen to maximise New Zealand’s future energy resilience.

“Commercial natural hydrogen production is in its infancy worldwide but it certainly appears to offer advantages over other types of energy production. It potentially has lower production costs and lower full life-cycle carbon emissions than other types of fuel and could be a game-changer for New Zealand.”

“New Zealand has deposits of naturally occurring hydrogen. We can, and must, exploit these resources as a nation if we are to free ourselves on a 100% reliance on fuels from overseas and create a reliable and resilient energy sector.

“The question of the ownership of any natural hydrogen in New Zealand must first be settled and I am seeking legal advice on whether natural hydrogen is considered Crown property under the Crown Minerals Act (CMA).”

Preliminary legal advice is that it is unclear whether and how the CMA applies to natural hydrogen, he said. If the Act does, in fact, apply to natural hydrogen there are questions as to how natural hydrogen should be defined and treated under it. This is important for regulatory decisions that will need to be taken, the Minister said.

“As interest in natural hydrogen grows in New Zealand, we need to consider whether the existing regulatory settings enable prospecting, exploration and mining and if they are appropriate from an economic, environmental and health and safety perspective.”

“The timing of this work programme is based on being able to progress other important portfolio priorities and ensure a considered approach can be undertaken to this emerging resource. I will also work closely with the Energy Minister to ensure the work programme aligns with our other commitments on hydrogen and the broader strategy for hydrogen.”

Any necessary legislative changes to the Crown Minerals Act would be made this parliamentary term, Mr Jones said.

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