Energy Resources Aotearoa CEO, John Carnegie; Resources Minister, Shane Jones and Energy Minister, Simoen Brown, at yesterday's industry breakfast in Wellington.

Resources Minister Shane Jones yesterday told a breakfast hosted by Energy Resources Aotearoa precisely what they wanted to hear.

“We campaigned to rehabilitate relegitimise and stand up for working families who derive their income,  derive their hope and derive purpose in regional New Zealand through a flourishing, growing, forward-leaning energy sector,” he said.

“You and I, as Kiwis, have allowed voices, forces, and ideologies to conquer what is a legitimate part of the New Zealand economy, i.e. digging things up, i.e. extracting natural resources from the earth and from the bed of the sea.”

And in case anyone was wondering what had happened to the infamous” nephs” who, when he was previously a Minister in the Ardern government Jones wanted to get off the couch, it seems they did get up, but then they went to Australia to work in mining.

That was probably predictable, given the previous government’s attitude to oil exploration and mining, which began with the offshore oil and gas exploration ban.

Jones was at the Cabinet meeting that approved that.

But now, having crossed the floor of the House, he has left his past behind him.

“In 2040, if I have anything to do with it, there will be a flourishing mining  sector employing all my nephews who are  currently going to the figurative Kalgoolies  of the world, and  I will have served my penance for having acquiesced in the closure of oil and gas off the coast of Taranaki.”

In three weeks, RMA Minister Chris Bishop will introduce legislation which will enable Jones’ promises to be realised.

That legislation will reach back to the Muldoon 1981-84 government for its inspiration in that it will reserve the right for the final approval of resource consent for Ministers rather than independent tribunals.


An example was the 1982 Clutha Development (Clyde Dam) Empowering Act, which granted the Energy Minister a water right for the dam after various planning tribunals and the courts had refused.

The Act said the rights were granted notwithstanding anything In any other legislation, thus effectively cutting off any avenues of appeal against the Ministerial decision.

The idea that the Courts can obstruct development has been reinforced with the decision last week of the Supreme Court to allow the climate change spokesperson for the Iwi Chairs’ Forum, Mike Smith, to sue Fonterra for its contribution to climate change and the harm that has done him.

The Court considered Tikanga Maori in its judgment, which would send the case back to the High Court.

“Whatever the cause of action, the trial court will need to grapple with the fact that Mr Smith purports to bring proceedings not merely as an alleged proprietor who has suffered loss but as a kaitiaki acting on behalf of the whenua, wai and moana—distinct entities in their own right,” the judgment said.

“And it must consider some tikanga conceptions of loss that are neither physical nor economic. In other words, addressing and assessing matters of tikanga simply cannot be avoided.”

Jones had plenty to say on this yesterday.

“I personally am horrified by the notion that offshore mining can turn on the court’s view of tikanga Maori,” he said.

“Well, I’m Maori,  with a big dose of Croatian, and I have spoken the language since I was a little boy. I learned my language from my grandmother, born in 1892, and I put my credentials up against any  New Zealander in this regard.

“It is the weaponisation and distortion of my culture driven by people who want to substantially change the ethos and the direction of our country on the basis of eco-catastrophisation and colonial guilt. I deeply resent that.”

Jones believes the final decision on big resource consents should be with Parliament.

“Parliament is sovereign in New Zealand,” he said.

“We are a Westminster democracy where  sovereignty lies in Parliament.”

 Many of those attending yesterday were from the electricity sector, where the issue is not so much about the dramatic mines that Jones wants to dig but about getting some certainty about planning legislation to enable investors to go ahead with renewable projects like wind and solar.

Energy Minister Simeon Brown told the breakfast this was a priority.

“We want to reduce the barriers to consenting solar, geothermal, all those things that then drive the opportunities around hydrogen and various other industrial opportunities in the New Zealand economy,” he said.

“So our role as politicians is to unlock that and to make sure that the regulatory framework and the legal frameworks are in place so that industry has the confidence to invest.

“That’s one of our biggest jobs over the next 12 to 18 months is put that framework in place, and then industry can have that confidence.”

Brown also wants to attract more foreign investment into the energy sector

“We’re thinking a lot around that; how to make New Zealand a far more open economy so we can attract investment to New Zealand,” he said.

“It’s really up to the industry, up to investors to make investments; it’s our job to make it as easy as possible and as attractive as possible.”

But that is for the longer term; in the short term, Brown may have to face possible power cuts this winter.

“The government is committed to turbocharging renewable energy through solar, wind and geothermal, but also taking a realistic approach and making sure we keep the lights on,” he said.

“And that’s all of the work that my colleague, Shane Jones, is doing around oil and gas to ensure that our top priority is keeping the lights on.”

Brown said the country had some very serious challenges in energy security, and we would face those challenges this winter and next winter.

“This situation is not something which has crept up on us but is being driven by a number of policies over the last six years Which have left is in a precarious and is something which keeps me awake at night.”

But the proposed fast-track call-in planning legislation lies at the heart of Brown’s hopes to turbocharge the renewable energy sector.

And Jones is adamant that the legislation will give control to the Beehive.

“Who should make those decisions on behalf of New Zealanders?” he said.

“I campaign, and  it’s the government’s view that  politicians have a critical role in unlocking the potential of  Mother Nature’s estate to grow  jobs, turn  our economic fortunes around and head a pivot regime that enables people to approach those projects and have some good prospect in a timely fashion of getting a permit.”