Proposed site of the new gas fired power station
Yesterday the National Party released its pro-gas energy policy; I think it's timely to take a look at how planned fossil fuel projects play out in the communities
When the Government announced its proposed climate legislation in October last year, many residents of the Rodney District North of Auckland breathed a sigh of relief, because the proposal included a target of 90 per cent renewable generation by 2025 and a ban on state-owned enterprises building new fossil fuel generated power plants. Then came proposals for an emissions trading scheme (ETS) and ten-year moratorium on new thermal generation for all electricity generators. It looked like Genesis Energy's proposal for a new gas-fired power station in Rodney would die a quiet death. At the time, Energy Minister David Parker stated on Radio NZ that the moratorium meant Rodney Power Station would not proceed. Finance Minister Michael Cullen said "We do not need that amount of additional thermal capacity given what we are told is available in terms of wind, geothermal and hydro".
However the Rodney Power Station opponents' joy was short-lived. It soon became apparent that there were so many exemptions to the thermal moratorium that Rodney might still be able to proceed. Genesis certainly thought so, continuing to spend what must be hundreds of thousands of dollars employing staff to work on plans for the project and on trying to convince locals that a gas-fired power station would be beneficial to the community.
Now National has dropped its support for the climate legislation and Labour is struggling to find the numbers to pass the ETS and thermal moratorium into law. Now National has released their own energy policy, committing to overturn the moratorium on thermal generation if it passes, and to support new gas-fired power plants. "If the wind stops blowing and the water stops flowing, gas just keeps going," sang National leader John Key.
John Key is the local MP for Helensville, where Rodney Power Station is planned to be built. He refused to meet with constituents who are opposed to the plant, claiming that his electorate diary was "fully booked until after the election". While clearly supportive of gas, he refuses to commit to a position on the plant so many of his own constituents oppose, stating simply that "National is not intrinsically opposed to this new power plant".
Neither Labour nor National have yet developed policies that will actually prevent climate-polluting projects like Rodney gas-fired power station from proceeding. We cannot continue to allow these sorts of projects to proceed. Instead we have to quickly reverse New Zealand's massive emissions growth.
Back in Rodney, accusations are flying that Genesis has funded community groups and organisations in the region in order to silence critics. Local campaigner Judi Candy suggests that Helensville could be renamed Genesisville. Another local resident accuses Genesis of applying "insidious pressure" in the community.
Meanwhile Greenpeace have been fighting it out with Genesis in court. In May this year, we took Genesis to the Supreme Court over an interpretation of the Resource Management Act (RMA). If we win, Rodney District Council and and Auckland Regional Council will have to take climate change into account in relation to Rodney Power Station. If we don't, the council will have no authority to consider its climate impact. .