Government spends up to 20 times more money on wooing oil and gas companies to New Zealand than it does on promoting renewable energy, newly released figures show.
The disproportionate funding was justified, Government officials said, because of the large royalties paid by petroleum companies. The Green Party said it further confirmed the Government's misplaced priorities.
In a briefing for a Parliamentary select committee, officials said the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) spent between $20,000 and $40,000 in each of the last two financial years on promoting "natural energy sources".
A similar level of expenditure was expected in the next financial year.
The money was mostly spent on attending and hosting renewable energy conferences. In 2014-15, the level of funding rose to $60,000 to cover the costs of hosting the World Geothermal Congress.
In contrast, Government agencies spent between $305,000 and $440,000 per year on promoting the fossil fuels industry. The funding was used to sponsor the Advantage New Zealand Petroleum Summit, to attend conferences in Melbourne, Singapore, London and Calgary, and to promote Government's annual block offer to oil and gas companies.
The promotional funding was limited to the petroleum sector, and no money had been granted to the coal industry in recent years.
Officials said the amount of taxpayer money spent on attracting petroleum and mineral exploration was small compared to the returns. "For example, the 15 petroleum exploration permits granted [in 2014] had $110 million in committed work programme expenditure. In the year to June 2014 the Crown received $389 million in petroleum and minerals royalties and levies."
Green MP Gareth Hughes said the funding reflected the National-led Government's support for fossil fuels, which he believed was misguided at a time when New Zealand needs to be cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions. "It's hardly a level playing field."
Fossil fuel promotion
2015-16: $415,000 (budgeted).