National | Power

Could Taranaki support offshore wind turbine farm with 600 jobs?

The iwi engagement officer for an ambitious plan to place 65 wind turbines, off the coast of south Taranaki, says it could be a hard sell for local Māori.

The New Zealand Superannuation Fund and Crown Infrastructure Partners (CIP) are teaming up with a Dutch conglomerate for the $5 billion project, which they say could supply 10 percent of New Zealand’s energy needs.

Their iwi engagement officer, commercial lawyer Toko Kapea, who grew up in Normanby, says a mixed reaction from iwi has been received.

Two key things have been raised; iwi and hapū being included in the process and discussions, and making sure the moana is looked after.

“Offshore wind is a novel new form of industry for New Zealand, so all of the developers are starting early on this because of that novel nature but also because of the importance of the moana to Māori,” he says.

“Some of the previous consents in Taranaki have highlighted that, if you get it wrong from a process perspective, it makes it very hard to have the conversations on the substantive things.”

Only time will tell if Taranaki iwi want the wind farm project to go ahead.

600 jobs

Kapea believes a conversation over transition from oil and gas with iwi and hapū is an issue too.

“The offshore wind development is a great opportunity to assist not only the increased electrification of New Zealand and increased demand for power but, more importantly, the de-carbonisation of the energy mix.”

The project estimates that 600 jobs will be created and would bring a substantial economic boost to the region. And some of them could keep going for as long as the turbines stand once built.

“You’re talking 100 plus jobs in that south Taranaki region – high paid, technical, managerial, expert level mahi. So that is quite exciting.”

Kapea hopes that the way the engagement happens with iwi and hapū has them on board for the project but acknowledges: “It is their prerogative as to how they want to go.”