Skip to content

Reflections from the Wind Energy Summit 2023 Part 2: The need for bold leadership and innovative partnerships

At the New Zealand Wind Energy Summit 2023, Te Waka General Manager Economic Development Rosie Spragg heard from a diverse range of energy industry leaders about the opportunity for wind energy to underpin transformation of our economy.

Critical to taking hold of this opportunity will be partnership: both to overcome the challenges presented by being a small country at the bottom of the world with relatively small demand for new generation, and to ensure Māori rights and interests are advanced in line with Te Tiriti.

In this second of two articles on the Summit, Rosie shares her reflections on key challenges we are likely to face in establishing an offshore wind industry in Aotearoa New Zealand, and the need for bold leadership and innovative partnerships to overcome those barriers. If you would like to read Part 1, click here.

Read Part 2 of Rosie’s reflections below and consider having your say in the government’s consultation on advancing Aotearoa New Zealand’s energy transition.

Our geographic location and size present real challenges that require innovative approaches

The offshore wind industry is maturing internationally, particularly in Europe, however global supply chains to support the industry remain very constrained. Several of the speakers at the Summit spoke of the high demand for additional offshore wind farms in Europe, driven by their strong imperatives to decarbonise their electricity generation and reduce reliance on gas. Aotearoa New Zealand is relatively unusual in its already high rates of renewable electricity generation (80-85%) and our relatively small scale of demand for new generation capacity compared to international markets is likely to make it difficult for us to compete for scarce resources.

This means that we will need to think differently about how we attract and build an offshore wind industry in Aotearoa New Zealand. We need to be realistic about the challenges our small scale and distant geographic location present. We need to be open to building much stronger partnerships with nearby markets, particularly in Australia, to build collective scale and support coordination of the expensive and scarce resources that will be needed to establish offshore wind farms. This may require some difficult trade-off decisions about where we invest in building capability locally versus relying on international partners who are better positioned to deliver cost-effectively.

We have in our favour a relatively long lead time to develop an offshore wind industry. Many at the Summit spoke of the significant volumes of ‘green capital’ available that is looking for a home but that needs clear investable projects. We have time to establish appropriate regulatory frameworks that will attract investors, build strategic partnerships that will help overcome our geographic and scale challenges, and to start developing our workforce to have the skills we will need in future. But we need to start laying the foundations now.

The opportunity is to embody Treaty partnership in the development of the offshore wind industry

As the government develops our energy strategy and regulatory structures, a key foundation must be the establishment of new and better frameworks for iwi/mana whenua partnership and community engagement, in line with Te Tiriti. During the Summit, Te Kāhui o Taranaki provided insights from the recent offshore wind study tour to UK and Europe, Te Hā o Tāwhirimātea. The delegation for this iwi-funded study tour included iwi representatives from Taranaki, Waikato-Tainui and Ngāti Whātua o Kaipara. The purpose of the tour was to build understanding on the potential opportunities and challenges for iwi and hapū if offshore wind energy generation develops in Aotearoa New Zealand.

We also heard from Te Korowai o Ngāruahine Trust about the development of the Iwi of Taranaki Alternative Energy Strategy. They spoke eloquently about the opportunity to implement Treaty principles to enable a deeper level of partnership with iwi and hapū, learning from the poor example set by oil and gas in the past. Several tangible opportunities for partnership with mana whenua were identified during the Summit, including governance roles, benefits sharing, technical working group roles, compliance monitoring and reviews, cultural and environmental monitoring plans, and decommissioning plan development.

These examples of proactive engagement and leadership from iwi demonstrate the opportunity to take a different approach to the development of the offshore wind energy industry that brings to life the promise of Treaty partnership, ensures Māori rights and interests are advanced, and supports the sustainable transition of our energy industry in a way that is equitable for Māori.

Have your say on the energy transition

The opportunities presented by offshore wind are long-term rather than immediate, but we need to carefully consider how we plan and invest now to ensure we can leverage these opportunities as they arise. We need to create optionality and flexibility within our energy system, guided by a clear strategy for our energy future. We must support and encourage Treaty partnership, learning from iwi that are taking a leadership position in this space. The potential environmental impacts need to be researched and understood, learning from international markets and local data.

As outlined in Part 1, our current market structures in the energy industry are not fit for purpose and require careful consideration to ensure our regulatory and market conditions encourage desired outcomes. Policy decisions that will be made in the coming months will shape the future of our energy industry and must be guided by a long-term strategy focussed on enabling future investment.

The suite of energy policy documents currently out for consultation speak to a wide range of important decisions that we need to make in the short term that will influence long term outcomes for our energy sector. You can learn more about the government’s consultation on advancing New Zealand’s energy transition here.

Given the Waikato’s role as a leading energy generation region, Te Waka will be submitting, and we encourage engagement from business and industry leaders in the Waikato to inform the policy settings that will underpin our economic future.

To learn more about Te Waka’s advocacy in support of the energy transition, reach out to our General Manager Economic Development Rosie Spragg.

Have a story to share?

The Waikato is full of people and businesses doing great things. Their stories help build our understanding of the strength of the Waikato and the benefits of living, studying, visiting or doing business here.