The country's first orbital rocket launch site on Mahia Peninsula is primed to join the global space economy, with the Government announcing new regulations to enable safe, secure and responsible space launches.
Yesterday Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and Foreign Minister Murray McCully announced an agreement had been reached between the Governments of New Zealand and the United States, covering the safeguards associated with the use of controlled US rocket satellite technology while ensuring New Zealand agencies retained the ability to perform their statutory tasks.
New Zealand would have a world-class space regulatory framework including the Technology Safeguards Agreement (TSA) with the US, accession to the United Nations Convention on Registration of Objects launched into Outer Space, and a new law governing space and high-altitude activities.
New Zealand was rapidly building a more diversified high-tech economy, Mr Joyce said, and one of the companies at the very leading edge of technology was "our own home-grown startup, Rocket Lab".
"The company and its parent company, Rocket Lab USA, are almost ready to start launching rockets commercially, and we need to introduce a regulatory framework so they and others that come after them can operate from New Zealand."
Rocket Lab has completed civic works at Onenui Station on Mahia Peninsula, and is now in a commissioning phase. When completed it will be the launch site of its Electron vehicle, with the first test flight scheduled for later this year, followed by flights each month.
Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck said the Government's commitment to seeing New Zealand join the global space arena was exciting news for the country.
"As with any industry, there is a need for a regulatory framework," he said. "Rocket Lab is committed to international best practice on using space responsibly, peacefully and sustainably."
He said the space economy generated more than $330 billion annually.
"We look forward to seeing New Zealand-based players enter the industry, and what this will mean for our economy and country's reputation as being at the forefront of global advancements in technology and engineering."
The proposed new law was required to both implement the TSA and the Registration Convention, and ensure rocket and high-altitude vehicle launches from New Zealand, and the satellites they put into orbit, were done safely and were not contrary to national interest.
New Zealand also reserved the ability to prevent a launch in the country which was contrary to its law or policies.
Mr McCully said: "The development of a New Zealand space industry is another exciting opportunity for our country. These agreements will ensure New Zealand is well set up to be a responsible and trusted participant in the global space industry."
The TSA has been designated as a major bilateral treaty of particular significance.