Taranaki could be a powerhouse in renewable energy research once oil exploration drilling in the region had ceased, Green Party environment spokesman Gareth Hughes says.
Hughes was in New Plymouth on Monday to help select the Green Party candidate for the Taranaki-King Country electorate to contest this year’s election.
The party’s energy policy was to stop deep sea drilling greater than 100 metres and allow shallower inshore exploration drilling.
“We can’t keep burning the stuff forever but no one is willing to put a date on it, or implement a plan around it.
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“That’s the challenge to the oil companies and the government to put a date on it and then spend time preparing for the transition away from oil.”
It was better to plan on a transition than leaving it to fate, and people losing jobs, he said.
In spite of the oil industry adding 30 per cent to the regional economic activity, Taranaki could profit more from using its skilled expertise in other energy related areas, he said.
“This region could be a powerhouse in terms of using its energy expertise, looking at marine energy, for example, tidal or wave.
“Unfortunately what we’ve seen is the NZ marine energy technology being shipped overseas because it wasn’t feasible to keep doing the work here in NZ.
“We could establish a marine energy centre of excellence.
“Another area is the bio-fuels, given forestry and agricultural expertise in the region.”
Hughes said although Taranaki still had the highest per capita GDP, a drop of 10 per cent since 2009, the region had declined by 4.3 per cent against 23.8 per cent growth by the rest of the country.
In the electricity sector the Green’s want to achieve 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030.
“We would like to recycle some of the dividends paid to the government from partially privatised power companies and return that to low income kiwi’s.
“It would cost $112 million and give an average of $215 a year to families earning under $50,000 – that would help 520,000 households.”
The policy would cover 75 per cent of the increase in winter power bills, he said.
Hughes said the policy was designed to help people smooth the prices and deal with the winter peaks when they struggle to pay the winter power bills.
Hughes said this would help 20 per cent of low income households who do not heat their homes during winter.
“They have to make a decision whether they heat, or eat this week.
“The result is we have 40,000 trips to hospital being made by children as a result of cold damp homes.”
Fracking was another area of concern and debate for Hughes.
The government needed to enact all six recommendations on fracking by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Hughes said.
The Green Party would also stick to a moratorium on sea bed mining.
Under resourced voluntary environmental and iwi groups are having to fight a lengthy semi-litigious process, he said.
“The strategy seemed to be to wear the groups down over time.”