Aotearoa New Zealand’s regulatory environment and resource management legislation is changing, for the first time in thirty years. We want to ensure that this reform, not only allows, but enables geothermal development. Given that the proposed legislative changes are already underway, we have an amazing opportunity to influence the development of new legislation, and ensure there is scope to enable future supercritical geothermal developments.
Supercritical Resources & the RMA Reform
The Resource Management Act 1991 (“RMA”) is the primary legislation applicable to the management of natural and physical resources, including geothermal resources in Aotearoa New Zealand. We published a report that overviews the existing planning and regulatory framework relating to the development and use of conventional geothermal resources in New Zealand.
Due to the variability in the characteristics of geothermal systems, and the challenges with accessing subsurface information about them, there is inherent uncertainty associated with the use and development of these resources. This uncertainty requires flexibility in the governing legislation, to facilitate exploration and research, in order to increase knowledge and understanding of the geothermal resources. This is particularly the case for supercritical geothermal, which is still largely unknown, unquantified, and far from technology-ready.
In the Geothermal: The Next Generation (GNG) programme, we had originally planned to identify how the existing legislative frameworks could be optimised to apply to supercritical resources (e.g. resource allocation, consenting, utilisation and system management). Instead, we find ourselves in the fortunate position to have a voice in designing future legislation (having already prepared a sound understanding of the existing framework - see this report).
Our GNG planning team are supporting the New Zealand Geothermal Association (NZGA) to enable sustainable geothermal resource allocation, consenting, utilisation and system management, by assisting with the drafting of submissions on the proposed Acts. You can access the recent NZGA submission on the Natural and Built Environments Act exposure draft.
We’ll keep you posted as we prepare future submissions, and as the RMA reform process unfolds.
What is the RMA Reform?
In February 2021, the Government announced it would repeal and replace the RMA with three new pieces of legislation:
Timing indicates that draft of the NBA and SPA will be available for public consultation in 2021, and passed by the end of 2022, with the CCA being developed later. More information is available on the MFE website.