WGC2015 Short Course "Geothermal Policy and Implementation – the New Zealand Example"

Alison Thompson (chair, Canadian Geothermal Energy Association)
Noel Kortright (Environmental Management Services Ltd., New Zealand)

The Short Course on “Geothermal policy and implementation the New Zealand example” was one of the IGA successful high-level educational events organized as part of WGC2015. That particular Course was held in Taupo, New Zealand, on 26 to 28 April 2015. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment of New Zealand (Hikina Wkakatutuki) kindly provided the support to this event. The team of outstanding New Zealand’s convener and lecturers included Noel Kortright (Environmental Management Services Ltd.), Kathrine Luketina (Waikato Regional Council), Bridget Robson (Bay of Plenty Regional Council), Dr Colin Harvey (Ex Geological and Nuclear Science, Peer Review Panel Member).

The Course was attended by approximately 20 participants. They represented many different areas of the geothermal industry including:

  • government officials, managers, personnel involved in the development and implementation of geothermal policy who wanted to understand the New Zealand geothermal regulatory framework and policy, how it has been developed and how it works in practice,
  • regulators and officials involved in scoping and assessing Environmental and Social Impact Assessments for geothermal developments,
  • geothermal developers preparing applications for environmental permits and Environmental and Social Impact Assessments for geothermal development.

The group gathered from all over the world to hear best practices pioneered in a country with a long history of geothermal energy production.  New Zealand’s regulatory framework and policy for the use and development of geothermal resources uses a single piece of legislation, the Resource Management Act, to: 

  • manage resource allocation (heat and geothermal fluid) and
  • control environmental effects.

The Course covered: 

  • New Zealand’s regulatory framework and policy that has been developed for the use and development of geothermal resources,
  • the roles of various levels of government and the processes that the main government agency uses to sustainably manage New Zealand’s geothermal resources, 
  • how geothermal systems have been classified for development or protection,
  • practical examples of allocation permitting processes, from both consent authority and developer/ applicant perspectives.

There was also a field trip focusing on the regulatory / environmental aspects, that looked at geothermal systems with different use classifications, ranging from protected systems to large scale extractive development.   We visited Rotorua area and discussed the challenges of managing use and natural hazards where the town has been built on top of an active geothermal system.

The main hazard we encountered on the field trip was the “not fine” weather!  Despite high winds and rain, the group managed to stay on the track at the Wai-O-Tapu geothermal park.  Soaking our feet in the Rotorua foot bath afterwards warmed us up physically and in spirit as well.

The Short Course was informal and extremely interactive, whereby all participants fully engaged in questions and discussion.  Indeed this was truly the best part of the Course, as we all developed or strengthened friendships and collegial networks.

Some participants and lecturers of the WGC2015 Short Course in front of Taupo Great Lake Centre (photo: N. Kortright)