Refinery upgrade secures fuel future

By Staff reporters

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The $365 million expansion of Marsden Pt Oil Refinery has been approved by Minister of Energy and Resources Simon Bridges, who said the facility was vital for securing the country's fuel supplies.

He visited the site yesterday during a blessing ceremony for the new Continuous Catalyst Regeneration Platformer.

The $365-million CCR project will lift the refinery's capabilities to 80 per cent of all New Zealand's fuel needs, providing a more reliable fuel source.

Building work will also create about 300 on-site jobs and hundreds more off-site over the next four years.

Mr Bridges said the $365 million investment was not to be sniffed at it provided plenty of work for Northland companies and ensured the security of fuel supplies for the country.

"This is something some countries much bigger than New Zealand don't have," he said.

"It's a large project that involves a lot of work and is probably one of the biggest capital investments in the country.

Northland companies know the importance of this work to the local economy, but there's also the contribution it makes to the national economy."

Meanwhile, Mr Bridges also met Te Waka o Taonui, the Taitokerau Iwi Chairs Forum, in Kaikohe, to discuss the Crown's push for minerals exploration and extraction.

About 60 iwi representatives were present, with Margaret Mutu, of Te Runanga-a-Iwi o Ngati Kahu, saying most iwi had given a clear message that mining was not welcome. Others said they wanted hapu consensus if mining happened on their land.

Te Runanga-a-Iwi o Ngati Kahu pre-empted the meeting by declaring that neither the Crown nor any local government body was authorised to issue licences for mining, aquaculture or other activities in the territories of Ngati Kahu without the express consent of the hapu.

Te Runanga o Te Rarawa chairman Haami Piripi said the meeting had been positive and open, and signalled a better ongoing relationship between the Crown and iwi.

A major issue raised repeatedly was whether the Government had legal right to make decisions about the use of Maori land or other resources within their rohe.

Mr Piripi said the meeting gave iwi the chance to reiterate the "very, very powerful imperative to guard and protect our land (and) to emphasise that the environment is our lives".

The Government treated gold and other potential minerals-based wealth as top priority, but it was imperative that the cultural and spiritual values iwi put on their land were equally recognised, and due diligence was given to those aspects, Mr Piripi said.

Mr Bridges said while some companies had licences to explore it did not mean mining was a fait accompli, with any mining years away, and he welcomed the fair and frank exchange of opinions with the chairs forum.

"This is just the start of the process ... we will keep listening," he said.

Mr Bridges said while some iwi leaders opposed mining full stop - and some of the opposition was based on valid cultural reasons - some were prepared to listen to what it could bring to the country.

- Northern Advocate

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