In Auckland there is a big decision looming as to whether the city should further reclaim the Waitemata Harbour to expand the port.
Some heavy hitters, such as newly-crowned New Zealander of the Year Sir Stephen Tindall are opposed to this decision being made until a full analysis of the economic, social and environmental effects has been done.
While it is impossible to have no environmental impacts from reclaiming more land for industry, there is also a strong contingent saying that it is worth it for economic progress. This argument may well be valid considering the ballooning population of Auckland City that is destined to continue to grow for the next ten years whether we like the associated increase house prices, traffic problems and pollution or not.
But there are ways that reclamation can have a positive outcome for the environment. About 18 months ago I floated the idea of a large scale gasification plant to turn all the rubbish from New Zealand and the Pacific Islands into renewable energy.
Could you justify more reclamation if it was going to go stop us having to use landfills and offer a financially sustainable waste management solution that would dramatically reduce plastic going into the ocean and being eaten by fish?
Another concept that I heard about was the tidal power installations that are now entering the planning process in the UK.
These are essentially reclaimed structures that generate renewable electricity by harnessing the immense power of the ocean. Check out the video in this article for an explanation:
Like the UK on the other side of the world, New Zealand has significant potential for tidal power to solve our renewable energy challenges.
Another project that was proposed for the Kaipara Harbour just north of Auckland was to provide electricity to 250,000 homes - providing some much needed energy resilience for Auckland, our country's biggest consumption zone - but has fallen by the wayside largely because of economic uncertainty in the electricity market and localised NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) factors.
Like wind power and the associated risks with birdstrike, undersea turbines will have an impact on marine life, but is this going to be worse that undersea hydrocarbon drilling, fracking and the risks of oil spills on the coastline?
What seems clear is that any proposal that involves undersea construction faces big challenges in planning and must be balanced against several factors for the inevitable impact it has environmentally.
What do you think? What do you think would justify drilling into the seabed in front of the tourist boon that is the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park (or anywhere else for that matter)?