It’s with great pleasure that I am launching the Northland region aeromagnetic survey data today.
The 2011 survey was a significant investment in the future of Northland by the Government, in partnership with the Far North District Council, the Northland Regional Council and Enterprise Northland.
I’m excited about the value of this investment for the people of Northland, and for New Zealand as a whole.
As most of you know, I have a vested interest in this. I’m a Northlander. I was born and raised in Whangarei and have been MP for Whangarei since 1999. So Northland is very important to me.
We now have a rich database of the geology of Northland that will be invaluable for a wide range of engineering, scientific and public-good science applications.
The 2011 aeromagnetic survey
Between February and August last year close to 13,600 square kilometres of the Northland region were surveyed, and over 80,000 kilometres worth of data collected.
That data has been interpreted by GNS Science, and is now freely available, supported by GNS Science reports. There are DVD packs of the information available for you to take away with you today.
Northland is the first area in New Zealand over which such a significantly large survey has been conducted. High-quality regional aeromagnetic data is now available for many countries, including nearly all of Australia, much of Africa and our Pacific partners.
The data is a huge asset to Northland.
The data can be used to assist Northland’s primary industries (agriculture, forestry, horticulture and viticulture) by improving the soil mapping of the region. It can help farmers and horticulturists in identifying fertile volcanic soils and also assist vintners in finding the marl soils that they appreciate so much.
It can also benefit conservation. The Regional Conservator commented recently that the survey would provide a large amount of data that will be extremely useful and potentially valuable for the Department of Conservation’s work, in particular the soils data.
The data can be used to identify geothermal energy sources – which can potentially be developed to improve energy security for local communities. It can help identify the various rock types that form good aquifers, such as limestones.
We’re drought-prone up here as you know, so this benefit to Northland is obvious - identifying ground water resources that could produce water during times of drought will have enormous positive implications.
It is useful in the public good area of geological hazard assessment, and informs engineering and construction investigations. Geological features such as contacts, faults, shear zones and folds that are often associated with land instability are very evident within geophysical data sets.
The data can provide valuable subsurface information to help decide where to put infrastructure such as buildings, wind farms, new roads, sewerage systems and electrical reticulation.
The data will also attract interest in minerals exploration in Northland.
This is all good news for Northland.
Northland is largely unexplored.
A recent study undertaken by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research identified the potential for minerals development to create a step-change in the local economy.
We need that step-change to create jobs and improve our standard of living.
Just to give you some idea how good it can get, in Taranaki resource exploration contributes $2 billion a year to the economy and directly and indirectly provides over 5000 jobs in the region – way more jobs, in fact, than agriculture or tourism, their other economic mainstays, and more money than tourism, as well. It can be the same story here.
And look at the Marsden Point refinery near Whangarei. It’s a mainstay of our local economy and community, a benefit to the North and the nation. The expansion announced recently will provide another 700 jobs here in Northland. That’s huge.
A significant contributor
The minerals sector is important to New Zealand. There is significant potential for New Zealand to grow the economic contribution made by minerals.
The Government is determined that this growth happens, but in a manner that is well managed and consistent with the wider values we hold as a nation.
We are currently reviewing the Crown Minerals Act regime. The CMA governs management of the Crown minerals estate, which includes all gold, silver, oil and gas.
This review aims to encourage development of Crown-owned minerals so they contribute to economic development; streamline the current regime and make it better able to deal with future developments; and ensure better co-ordination between regulatory agencies on health, safety and environmental matters.
The Government has also committed significant extra funding to build up capacity and capability in New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals, the Government agency responsible for minerals promotion activity and permitting in New Zealand.
The aim is clear – we want to ensure that New Zealand has robust and best-practice legislation that ensures New Zealand manages safe and responsible development every step of the way.
We expect to have the new regime for Crown minerals in place by the end of this year.
I expect to invite companies to submit work programme-based bids for metallic minerals exploration shortly.
This will be an important step towards realising that future for Northland I’ve been talking about. It’s like opening the door.
It allows us to strategically manage increased interest in minerals exploration over Northland, and to ensure we have the best companies undertaking responsible exploration.
Success will be awarding permits to a range of reputable companies committed to helping us safely and responsibly search for minerals in Northland.
So what we’re doing today in a sense is unveiling a tool which will help us unlock the bright future that I’m sure Northland can achieve through finding and developing our mineral resource.
We’re going to do that carefully and safely. We can emulate Taranaki’s success in this area and that will be brilliant for us all – not just us, but the generations coming up behind us.
We often hear the phrase “making a difference” in various contexts. This data’s going to make a difference up here in the best way. I welcome it. Well done everyone involved.