Issue of National Significance: New Zealand's Energy Security   25 Nov 2011

Alan Preston and Marianne Riley

New Zealand’s energy security is an issue the public have the right to hear debated in the run up to the election. It reveals how vulnerable we are because of our dependency on oil and how this current National Government is withholding crucial information so they may continue their unsustainable approach to New Zealand's transport infrastructure. How is this honest or transparent?

The money NZ spends on importing oil has risen 22% this year to over $21 million per day, $7.7billion for the 2010 year,and while the International Energy Agency is warning us to reduce our vulnerability to what are going to become increasingly expensive post 2006 peak oil prices, the National Government is diverting funding from social, health, education and welfare programs, at the same time committing more than $11billion on Roads of ' National' Significance' and threatening to close another 5 of our regional railway lines.

In May of this year the International Energy Agency (IEA), an historically conservative organisation, revised their earlier forecast that peak oil was not due to occur until sometime after 2030, following a study of 800 of the world's oil fields. They are now saying that they believe the peak in conventional oil production actually occurred in 2006 and that unconventional sources (natural gas and tar sands) are extremely unlikely to make up the shortfall because of growing demand from China and India, concluding that 'the age of cheap oil is over' (Radio New Zealand National's Nine To Noon Program on the 25th of May 2011 with the International Energy Agency's Chief Economist , Fatih Birol). The IEA go on to warn that governments around the world urgently need to reduce their vulnerability to increasing fossil fuel prices. It is prudent to note at this point that as a member nation of the IEA New Zealand pays for their advice.

In the context of the above revelations, paying attention to and acting upon New Zealand's dependence on oil is imperative. Early in their first, and current, term in office the National Government was presented with the 2009 Ministerial Report on Oil Prices and Resilience in the Transport Sector which outlined some of the vulnerabilities that New Zealand faces, vulnerabilities that are further intensified by the IEA's latest findings. The National Government appears to not only ignore the agency's warnings, but has sought to ignore and indeed conceal critically relevant information.

The above Ministerial Report was one of at least two significant documents that were only made public after use of the Official Information Act forced their release. The other, the Bolland Report, the Ministry of Transport commissioned in 2010 to provide independant advice on the costs and benefits of rail vs road for freight transport. The report found in favour of rail. This finding is consistent with the IEA's clear indication that more sustainable approaches to transport must be pursued. Why then is this government intent on rationalising New Zealand's rail network in their KiwiRail Turnaround plan - which includes the 'mothballing' of 5 regional railway lines? Such action only serves to increase our vulnerability to oil while concurrently decreasing our resilience.

Equally alarming is this National Government's focus on building roads, and in particular the 'Roads of National Significance' (RoNS) projects. If it is in the country's, not to mention the planet's, best interest to reduce oil dependency, why is the government embarking on such major road building initiatives while systematically dismantling the rail network?

This question becomes even more significant when set alongside the SAHA Roads of National Significance: Economic Assessments Review which identified that at least three of the seven projects assessed prove economically non-viable (that is with BCRs of less than 1). The report also warned against putting too much weight on the incorporation of Wider Economic Benefits (WEBs) as their use is still in its infancy and to some degree contentious. This report was not released for public scrutiny.

What was released to the public was the SAHA Summary Report. This report appears to be a reworking of the original with what can only be described as manipulative changes to the data, including placing unwarranted emphasis on the WEBs despite the above caveats.

Mike Pickford, Independent Economic Researcher and former Chief Economist at the New Zealand Commerce Commission has reviewed both the 'First' and 'Second' SAHA reports . His findings point to inconsistencies both within the original report and between the two reports, as well as highlighting the unconventional and questionable practice of assessing the RoNS program as a whole 'portfolio' as opposed to the more appropriate approach of assessing each project on its own merits. It is this 'amalgamation' process that allows the disguising of the negative returns of some of the projects.

There seems little doubt that taxpayers are being sold a misrepresentation of the facts in order to validate the current National Government's uneconomic and unsustainable approach to transport infrastructure. The question then has to be 'who stands to benefit?'

• For the ministerial briefing on oil prices and transport sector resilience click here.
• For the Bolland Report April 2010 click here.
• For Comments on the Second SAHA Report click here.

(Save Our Rail Northland)

Add a comment

Bookmark and Share

News

Royal succession laws come into force

26 Mar 2015 News
Legislation modernising rules applying to Royal succession to the throne came into force today in New Zealand and in the 16 Realms... more

McCully visits Iraq ahead of NZ deployment

24 Mar 2015 News
  Foreign Minister Murray McCully travelled to Baghdad yesterday for talks with Iraq’s Prime Minister Mr Haider al-Abadi... more

Business

PAYE for NZ firms proposed in biggest tax shake-up since '57

31 Mar 2015 Business News By Pattick Smellie
March 31 (BusinessDesk) - The government is floating the idea of businesses paying their tax on a pay-as-you-go (PAYE) basis, like... more

Mark Powell to depart Warehouse by Feb 2016 after 4 years

30 Mar 2015 Business News By Jonathan Underhill
March 30 (BusinessDesk) - Mark Powell will step down as chief executive of Warehouse Group by February 2016 after 14 years, the last... more

Living

2degrees lights up Auckland Harbour Bridge in World First

13 Mar 2015 Lifestyle
Fusing light, music, mobile and one of Auckland’s most recognisable landmarks together – 2degrees launched another Kiwi... more

Third Thursday Set to Groove

9 Mar 2015 Lifestyle
The sounds of legendary jazz musician Charles Mingus is set to raise the beat of Wellington’s waterfront on 19 March, when the... more

Property

NZ house prices rise 3.6% in February

12 Mar 2015 Property By Tina Morrison
  NZ house prices rise 3.6% in February, led by a 14% jump in Auckland prices March 12 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand residential... more

Revealed: Auckland's cheapest suburbs

9 Mar 2015 Property
Many home buyers face long commute to Auckland jobs as they move to Wellsford, Pokeno and Hamilton. Only six areas of Auckland still... more

Migration

PM plays down claim war criminals are living in NZ

2 Mar 2015 Migration
Prime Minister John Key says he is not aware of any suspected war criminals from the former Yugoslavia in New Zealand. The claim that... more

NZ migration rose to record in 2014

30 Jan 2015 Migration By Tina Morrison
  NZ migration surged to record in 2014, helped by robust economy Jan. 30 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand migration surged to a... more

Travel

Foss welcomes agreement for rental vehicle code

17 Mar 2015 Travel & Tourism
Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss is welcoming a move by the rental vehicle industry to establish a Code of Best Practice to... more

Productive discussions on Queenstown’s tourism workforce

6 Mar 2015 Travel & Tourism
Sustainable workforce solutions were at the centre of discussions between Government Ministers and tourism industry representatives... more

Sport

ICC announces Team of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015

31 Mar 2015 Cricket
The team was chosen by a select group of experts who were given the task of picking a balanced side on the basis of performances in... more

Black Caps have done us proud

31 Mar 2015 Cricket
Sport and Recreation Minister Jonathan Coleman says the Black Caps have done New Zealand proud in the ICC Cricket World Cup. Dr... more

Columns

Gordon Campbell on the Northland by-election

30 Mar 2015 Opinion
Column - Gordon Campbell   Gordon Campbell on the Northland by-election Supposedly, Winston Peters’ victory in Northland... more

ICC World Cup 2015: STEPHEN FLEMING: YES, NEW ZEALAND CAN!

28 Mar 2015 Opinion
Former New Zealand captain says the team will be focusing on enjoying themselves, knowing they are part of something that will be the... more

Kiwi Success

Tower names Seniors Money's Brett Wilson as CFO

18 Mar 2015 Appointments
  Tower names Seniors Money's Brett Wilson as CFO, replacing Boggs March 18 (BusinessDesk) - Tower, the listed general insurer,... more

Kiwi start-up Glassjar launches payments app in the US

6 Mar 2015 People
Glassjar, the kiwi software start-up whose app provides people an easy way of sharing bills, has launched in the United States. The... more

Recruitment

NZ Government moves to strengthen employment standards

26 Mar 2015 Recruitment
Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse today announced a package of measures to strengthen enforcement of minimum... more

RESEND: 63% of Warehouse permanent staff now on career wage

20 Mar 2015 Recruitment By Fiona Rotherham
  RESEND: Warehouse says 63% of permanent staff now on 'career retailer wage' (Fixes fourth paragraph to show Warehouse is... more