Election 2023: ACT vows to reverse ban on oil and gas exploration, make offshore wind easier to permit

The ACT Party is promising to reverse the ban on oil and gas exploration and introduce a simplified permitting regime for offshore wind projects if elected.

ACT leader David Seymour made the announcement on Sunday morning saying for New Zealand to have a "high-skilled and high-waged economy" it depends on affordable and reliable energy. 

"ACT will cut the red tape that is strangling innovation, holding back reliability and driving up energy prices," Seymour said. 

Part of ACT's energy policy, if elected, would see the reversal of the ban on oil and gas exploration. 

"The decision to ban new offshore oil and gas exploration in 2018 was done without analysis, without a Cabinet decision, and without public consultation," Seymour said. 

"It was subsequently revealed that there was no cost-benefit analysis and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment found it would actually increase global emissions by forcing activity offshore."

Seymour said for the first time since the 1970s, New Zealand's natural gas reserves dropped below 10 years' supply. 

"This is bad news for New Zealand's overall electricity supply. Manufacturers and major electricity users believe that natural gas will be needed well beyond 2050," Seymour said. 

"Even the Climate Change Commission agrees gas will be needed in 2050. The ban on oil and gas exploration was a costly mistake." 

ACT would also remove Te Mana o te Wai from resource-consenting, which Seymour said would simplify the process by stripping what he called "vague spiritual concepts" such as mauri, or the "life-force" of water, from consideration.

"At the moment, iwi and tribal elites have a right of veto over how water is used, and not just by electricity generators," ACT's policy document says.

"It adds complexity and costs to the consenting process. It has led to water users making large one-off and on-going payments for 'cultural monitoring' services which do nothing for the environment but add decades of costs to power bills and disincentivises international investors," Seymour said. 

ACT would also "get the state out of energy development" by dumping the Lake Onslow project.

"Labour's insistence on headlines rather than practical policies goes further than illogical bans. The Lake Onslow project has attracted controversy for its poor cost-benefit analysis and value for money and affordability criteria," Seymour said. 

"Taxpayers shouldn't be on the hook for costly projects that don't stack up. ACT would not allow the Lake Onslow project to proceed as a government project. If a private operator believed they could fund, finance and deliver it at no cost to the taxpayer, then ACT would not object." 

If elected, ACT would also introduce a regulatory framework to support carbon capture and fast-track permit development to make offshore wind easier to permit. 

"ACT would emphasise the use of technology like Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage, which with the proper regulatory reform can reduce emissions at a much lower cost to Kiwis," Seymour said.

"Wind projects have huge potential to help New Zealand meet its renewable energy targets and ensure New Zealanders have a supply of cost-effective energy. 

ACT would introduce a simplified permitting regime for offshore wind projects by adopting "suitable and well-understood standards" from equivalent OECD countries such as Denmark where many such projects have been delivered successfully.

Seymour said Labour has led Kiwis to believe New Zealand cannot have a clean, green environment and cheap, reliable energy at the same time, which he believes is possible. 

"Getting electricity prices under control will play an important part in easing the cost of living crisis for families that are struggling most. Under this Government, almost 8 per cent of households cannot afford to keep their houses warm, while the Electricity Networks Association forecasts households will be paying twice as much for electricity in five years."