Greenpeace appeals Hiringa hydrogen proposal

In News5 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineDecember 9, 2022

With the support of Hapū of Ngāruahine in South Taranaki, Greenpeace Aotearoa is appealing against the High Court’s approval of Hiringa Energy’s hydrogen proposal with Ballance.

The $70 million green hydrogen project promises to help decarbonise heavy transport.

It is a partnership between Hiringa Energy and Ballance Agri-Nutrients for the production of hydrogen from renewable electricity and water at a facility in Kapuni.

Greenpeace claims the High Court erred in failing to find that the Consenting Panel’s decision to place no conditions on whether, when, and how the project transitioned from fertiliser feedstock production to hydrogen fuel production, was a breach of the Covid-19 Recovery Fast-Track Consenting Act.

“The Consenting Panel rightly identified that transition to 100 percent fuel use within five years was a critical reason for its decision to grant the consent, yet the conditions of the consent don’t require that transition to ever occur,” said senior campaigner Steve Abel.

“This effectively allows Hiringa and Ballance to keep using hydrogen for manufacturing polluting synthetic nitrogen fertiliser for decades, and never actually transition to using it for transport fuel.”

Greenpeace submits that the Panel also undermined the statutory requirement in the fast-track legislation that decisions must be made consistently with the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, because it left decision-making about the key issue of transition to instead be dealt with by the local council under the weaker provisions of the Resource Management Act, which do not require decisions to be made consistently with Te Tiriti principles.

“One clear intent of the fast-track wording was to give greater weight to Te Tiriti but the Panel effectively bypassed that requirement by kicking transition decisions to the local council,” said Abel.

The project received almost $20 million in funding from the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund back in 2020.

Hiringa Energy said it was “shocked and disappointed” by Greenpeace Aotearoa’s decision to go to the Court of Appeal.

Cathy Clennett, chair of Hiringa Energy, says Greenpeace’s action is frustrating and confusing as it will simply stall the decarbonisation of heavy transport and industry and delay the transition from fossil fuels.

“Greenpeace’s motivation is hard to understand as we are all striving for the same goal of addressing climate change,” she said.

“The project has already been delayed by more than 12 months by the High Court appeal which was dismissed on all counts. Meanwhile more fossil fuels are burned.  Despite this challenge, we remain committed to seeing the Kapuni project through to drive practical decarbonisation in Aotearoa.”

Andrew Clennett, chief executive of Hiringa Energy, said the partnership with Ballance is vital in terms of being able to fund the development of green hydrogen at the scale necessary.

“During the next five years New Zealand needs to accelerate the transition to hydrogen. It is already happening. In the main it will be for heavy transport – the big, long-haul trucks,” he said.

“Hydrogen trucks are already in New Zealand with NZ Post trialling them and TR Group planning to introduce a fleet in 2023. While we build our refuelling network throughout New Zealand and increase the numbers of zero emission vehicles (trucks and cars) on the road, we need an economic way of building that infrastructure and providing a flexible supply, as during the early establishment phases there won’t be a constant stream of vehicles arriving to fuel. This project in its consented form gives us that.”

Karl Adamson from Ngāti Haua Hapū added: “We support Greenpeace appealing the case, Ngāti Haua had expressed several concerns with the project during consultation, in the context of what the hydrogen was being used to produce (fertiliser) in the start up period of the project we considered this to be ‘dirty energy’, Hiringa Energy gave the undertaking that the total production of hydrogen after five years would transition to supply the heavy transport industry which Ngāti Haua accepted at face value, although this has not been guaranteed through the consenting process so it remains a concern.”