Submitted 14 April 2023: Read the NZCA's submission on the discussion document on Enabling Investment in Offshore Renewable Energy.

The Legislative Basis for the New Zealand Conservation Authority (NZCA) submission

  1. The New Zealand Conservation Authority (the Authority) was established under the Conservation Act 1987, with members appointed by the Minister of It is an independent statutory body with a range of functions, but primarily acts as an independent conservation advisor to the Minister and the Director-General of Conservation.
  2. The Authority has a role as an objective advocate on matters of national significance and interest in the conservation arena and to provide high quality independent advice to the Department of Conservation (DOC) on its strategic direction and performance.
  3. The Authority has a range of powers and functions under the Conservation Act 1987, as well as under other conservation related legislation. Under the Conservation Act, Section 6C(2)(c), the NZCA has the power to “advocate the interests of the Authority at any public forum or in any statutory planning process.”

NZCA Submission

  1. NZCA is responding to the Discussion Document Enabling Investment in Offshore Renewable Energy released by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and
  2. This NZCA submission is based on its analysis of the document and in the context of recently published research on the impacts of offshore energy developments on the natural environment, cultural, social, economic interests, and values.

Purpose of the Discussion Document

  1. The Discussion Document is focused on eliciting responses about the “regulatory settings necessary to enable prospective developers to explore the feasibility of developing offshore energy infrastructure in our waters...”. Questions are specifically raised in relation to a range of potential options for specific aspects of the regulatory context.

National interests and environmental criteria

  1. Early in the document there are references to “national interests” and there is also recognition (pg. 7) that developing a renewable energy industry in Aotearoa NZ requires “a careful approach that considers economic, cultural, environmental and social criteria”. NZCA supports this statement – with our understanding that the term “environmental” encompasses biodiversity, ecosystem functions and services, as well as environmental consequences on oceanography, wind, hydrodynamic processes,
  2. NZCA is concerned that a number of fundamental questions are not raised and some key issues for New Zealand are not traversed. The paper assumes that offshore energy is an appropriate activity in New Zealand waters given the surge in interest from both local and international firms. While there are statements about the wind environment in the NZ region being very suitable for wind farms, there is no information about the relative wind availability on land when compared to offshore.
  3. It is our understanding, that unlike countries in northern Europe, the topography and situation of New Zealand means that wind speeds on land exceed those over the sea, in contrast to the situation in other some other parts of the world. While the text presents opportunities afforded by offshore wind, there is little or no discussion about the NZ wave climate, the frequency and strength of coastal storm events, and the specific issues that the conditions in New Zealand present.
  4. New Zealand differs considerably from countries in northern Europe (for example, in terms of population density, infrastructure for electricity transmission, the number and siting of ports equipped for large vessels and all weather conditions, etc). These characteristics, coupled with the challenges of working offshore in the New Zealand context wind and wave climates, are likely to have a significant impact on the costs and efficiencies of establishing and maintaining offshore facilities.
  5. We consider that there needs to be a life cycle analysis of the carbon and energy footprint of offshore wind developments. The life span of equipment in marine environments, and the frequency of maintenance required, as well as all-weather access, present particular challenges when compared to equivalent operations on land. While there are papers on this topic in the international literature, there was no mention made of such studies, even at a theoretical level, for the New Zealand
  6. In Chapter 3 reference is made to the importance of considering potential environmental impacts when considering both the developer and the development, and “the range of benefits that may be realised for Aotearoa New Zealand”. The Discussion Document does not explore this further, however, and there is no mention of how this component of developer/development suitability will be evaluated within the regulatory context, nor how environmental impacts will be included in feasibility
  7. The Discussion Document states: “On potential environmental impacts, the research undertaken during the feasibility stage will provide significant insight into Aotearoa New Zealand’s marine environment and will assist with understanding and quantifying the potential for positive or adverse effects. Governments around the world are increasingly examining offshore wind projects at the feasibility stage to ensure that developers collect appropriate data and complete a detailed environmental impact assessment prior to seeking relevant consents to construct.” NZCA considers that it is a significant omission that these elements of the regulatory framework have not been developed The listing of environmental “uses, interests, and values” in Chapter 7 is woefully inadequate with no mention of seabirds, environmental sound, changes to benthic habitats, impacts on hydrodynamics, wind, to name just a few examples.
  8. There is considerable international work on evaluation of sites, potential environmental impacts – and the different types of impacts (including their severity and duration) that occur at different phases of development.
  9. NZCA recommends that at the feasibility stage there should be requirements that are clearly outlined to potential developers regarding the information that must be provided with respect to environmental impacts. Further, in the application process the developers must also outline their identification of environmental risks and how these will be mitigated, and how monitoring will be conducted. These should be regarded as crucial prerequisites for operation in the New Zealand marine regions.

Availability of environmental and biodiversity data

  1. Environmental and biodiversity data are lacking for many areas of the New Zealand coastal and marine regions. There is little baseline data on which to model potential adverse effects of developments. At present in New Zealand relevant research agencies are not funded to undertake the type and extent of research that would be needed to provide reliable independent information about the biodiversity impacts of offshore renewable energy. Consideration must be given to how this research is to be resourced if it is not fully funded by developers. Some funding could be built into the regime, for example cost-recovered through fees/permits and the regime could ensure that all data collected is made publicly available.
  2. In some jurisdictions, including Australia and the North Sea, long term planned data collection has occurred which has informed impact assessment. Adequate baseline data collection followed by sound environmental assessments will be critical for understanding the biodiversity impacts of any offshore renewables framework.
  3. International literature points to the impacts of offshore installations affecting birds, marine mammals, and migratory species. The impacts of sound in the marine environment are known to affect a wide range of species - including invertebrates and vertebrates. Offshore wind farm infrastructure has been shown to affect water mixing in coastal waters, fundamentally changing shelf sea stratification with consequent impacts on productivity at ocean basin scales, as well as having impacts on sea surface climate and wind speed changes.
  4. There is a need to consider not only the impacts in the immediate area of the proposed development but more broadly how the environment will respond to having offshore renewables added to the mix of pressures on species and ecosystems. Multi-stressor evaluations and consideration of cumulative impacts are essential – when considering single species, habitats as well as ecosystem functions. Many marine species travel large distances and therefore ‘point’ data based on limited study will not adequately identify the significance of sites.
  5. NZCA is concerned that environmental and biodiversity data gathered in the exploratory and developmental phases are made available for communities and decision In order to enable transparent and sound decision making, the best possible information needs to be available for analysis. NZCA considers there are significant risks associated with taking an industry-led approach, particularly if data gathered by industry are not publicly available to be scrutinised.
  6. In terms of reporting on impacts, international studies support making the use of standard parameters mandatory in renewable energy monitoring programmes, as well requiring data to be shared and stored in standardised templates to enable exchange of knowledge and development of deeper understanding and generalisations of
  7. Relationship with the resource management system: NZCA considers that any developments for an offshore renewable energy framework need to be made in the context of the resource management reforms currently underway in New Zealand. Renewable energy generation that is sited in the marine environment should be considered alongside other activities and within the context of regional spatial These mechanisms enable the interests of iwi, hapū and whānau as well as central and local government to be represented, as well as environmental and biodiversity values.
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