Murihiku Regeneration energy and innovation wānanga

Energy and Resources

I want to start by thanking Ngāi Tahu and the Murihiku Regeneration Collective for hosting us here today. Back at the  Science and Innovation Wananga in 2021, I said that a just transition in New Zealand must ensure Iwi are at the table. This is just as true now as it was then.

Ngāi Tahu and the Murihiku Regeneration Collective have been crucial in Southland’s just transition process, leading the clean energy and worker transition Workstreams, and bringing a wealth of knowledge and an intergenerational outlook to this work. Thank you for your ongoing leadership.

I acknowledge Tā Tipene, whose vision for this region as a thriving green energy hub continues to drive this transition three years after Tiwai's first closure announcement.

I also acknowledge Michael Skerrett, who has been involved in Southland’s just transition from the very beginning.

Likewise, I would like to thank the region's Mayors who are with us today, Mayor Clark, Mayor Bell and Mayor Scott.

I would like to extend a warm welcome to Her Excellency Nicole Menzenbach, the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany. I am grateful for your efforts in fostering cooperation in the fields of science and innovation between our two nations.

it’s also greatthe members of the Southland just transition Enduring Oversight Group here today. To bring Iwi, unions, business, sectors, and local and central government together, to create a shared goal and plan for Southland's transition is no small task. Your dedication to the region is admirable and will be instrumental in shaping its future. I would particularly like to acknowledge the group's co-chairs, Aimee Kaio and Neil McAra. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to this important work.

We have long believed Southlanders deserve to have long-term certainty over the future of their region. Three years after the New Zealand Aluminium Smelter’s initial closure announcement, there are still no definitive answers, and there continues to be uncertainty in the region about the smelter’s future.

It has been good to see Rio Tinto’s efforts to improve its relationship with local stakeholders, including Ngāi Tahu, and their commitment to full remediation of the Tiwai Point site. But there is more work to be done to signal their long-term commitment to Southland, and to New Zealand.

That said, I believe the heavy industry can play a significant role in the wider renewable energy transition. Decarbonisation does not mean deindustrialisation.

You will probably have seen news of an exciting announcement I made alongside the Prime Minister on Sunday; the biggest emissions reduction project New Zealand.

The Government is partnering with NZ Steel to reduce 800,000 tonnes of climate pollution from its Glenbrook mill each year. That’s the equivalent of taking approximately 300,000 cars, or all the cars in Christchurch, off the road.

This is possible because of our Government Investment in Decarbonising Industry Fund – or GIDI, which co-invests in  decarbonisation and clean energy, through partnerships with business. Funded by revenue received from carbon emissions. GIDI demonstrates our commitment to working with businesses that are willing to do their part towards emissions reductions and future proofing our economy. It makes economic sense for Government to recycle this revenue to invest money for reducing New Zealand’s emissions, rather than buying international credits, effectively paying other countries to decarbonise. I will back keeping jobs in New Zealand every day of the week. I will also back ensuring we have resilience in our domestic supply chains.

Partnerships like the one with NZ Steel does this and helps New Zealand to secure its long-term energy future and achieve climate targets. Central to this partnership is a Power Purchase Agreement with Contact Energy that adds to our security of supply through their flexible off-peak arrangement.

I encourage Rio Tinto to follow this example. Rio Tinto has indicated the smelter could support the wider national energy transition by underwriting new-build renewable generation and playing a role in smoothing peaks. This approach could make a valuable contribution to meeting our national emission reduction and renewable energy goals and send a clear signal to the community of NZAS's long-term future in the region.

Ultimately, whether the smelter closes in 2024 is a matter for Rio Tinto. The focus of the Southland Just Transition process has been planning for and managing the social, economic, and environmental impacts of economic change to give Southlanders certainty about the future.

This Government is committed to a just transition for Murihiku and for Aotearoa as we move toward a low-carbon future. This must be a fair, equitable and inclusive transition that leaves no region, no community, and no person behind. A just transition empowers regions, through partnership, to lead their own process to ensure that the impacts and opportunities that arise are distributed fairly.

As we move towards a prosperous low carbon future, we must apply that same principle of partnership that has guided Southland’s just transition to the national transition. Otherwise, we risk missing the opportunity to build an enduring and just transition.

The reality is that to realise the new opportunities we are faced with we will need to work together. I urge all of you to embrace this partnership model and participate actively in the national transition to a low-emission, high wage economy. We need your input, knowledge, relationships, and expertise to build a sustainable future that leaves no one behind and ensures we rise to the challenges and opportunities presented by climate change.

This region has done a huge amount of work over the last two years to plan for the possibility of New Zealand Aluminium Smelter’s closure. I am thankful for the contributions of everyone who has participated in the just transition process so far.

Already, the Government has supported several initiatives identified by the region. We are investing in E tū union's Job Match programme to support workers in the region into decent work and mitigate the effects of wage scarring. We are building upon Southland's strength as New Zealand's biggest regional food basket by supporting Thriving Southland's Food and Fibre Investment Accelerator project to identify new high-value land use opportunities for the region. We have also supported the implementation of the region's new Long-Term Plan, and the development of a new community collaboration programme, Connected Murihiku.

However, this work must continue.

That is why today I am proud to talk to you about the significant $100 million investment we made at Budget 2023 to kick-start a hydrogen industry, that will begin in Southland.

This will fund a hydrogen consumption rebate targeting early adopters of hydrogen technologies in hard-to-abate sectors as a means of building skills, industry knowledge, supply chains, and normalising hydrogen use, supporting the emergence of a green hydrogen industry in Just Transition Regions.

This rebate will close the price gap between green hydrogen and fossil fuels through long-term contracts between hydrogen consumers and the crown.

The Regional Hydrogen Transition will position New Zealand as an early adopter of green hydrogen and enable us to attract global supply chain opportunities.

This investment will also contribute to greater strategic fuel resilience in the context of global and regional strategic pressures and uncertainty.

At the heart of this initiative is a commitment to delivering direct benefits to the community and doing so in a way that honours Te Tiriti o Waitangi. My officials will be working closely with Iwi to ensure this commitment is realised.

I am also announcing today, further funding of $8 million to support Southland’s just transition goals to create new industries, transition workers and skills, and get long-term planning underway.

This investment will support high-impact projects identified through the just transition process.

The Establishment of a Southland Engineering and Manufacturing Cluster will support firms to diversify their customer base and develop new economic opportunities, whilst continuing to support existing major industries.

Ongoing support for the COIN- Southland Start-up and Innovation Eco-system will enable the establishment of new businesses and help existing businesses to transition and take advantage of opportunities in emerging industries.

By collaborating with the Murihiku Aquaculture Group and investing in Southland’s aquaculture industry we will accelerate the growth of a new industry, further diversifying Southland’s economy, and creating high-wage, low-emission jobs.

The transition to a low-carbon future will provide many new opportunities for growth. Energy, innovation, and new technologies will be essential in capturing these opportunities. Hydrogen, in particular, has captured the imagination of this region.

This technology has the potential to play a significant role in our energy system and decarbonising parts of our economy.

Today’s announcement shows the Government’s commitment to supporting Southland’s just transition. Helping local firms and workers to capture new opportunities will reduce the region’s reliance on NZAS and build regional resilience. By investing in new industries and employment opportunities, transitioning existing workers and businesses, and developing long-term planning for the region's future, we are creating a more sustainable, equitable, and prosperous future for everyone in the region.

But this is just the beginning. We must make the most of this opportunity and continue to work together to build a better future for our communities. With this new funding, we have the resources we need to take the next steps in delivering on the goals of Southland's just transition.

Now we must continue to work together, with determination and vision, to build a future that we can all be proud of. From the bottom of Te Waipounamu – one of the last stops before Antarctica – let’s show the country and the world what is possible when we bring people to sit together and form enduring partnerships and relationships.

Thank you.

E aku nui, e aku rahi, tēnā koutou katoa