A plan to blend Bay of Plenty-generated hydrogen into local natural gas supplies, before switching to delivering 100 per cent hydrogen by 2050, will create a new local energy economy according to Firstgas Group.
Firstgas Group operates the natural gas pipe networks in the North Island and owns Rockgas, an LPG supply and distribution business.
A new report released by Firstgas details the Bay's role in a nationwide change over the next 30 years toward zero-carbon gases.
Based on the report, Firstgas Group says it can phase in natural gas blends of up to 20 per cent hydrogen from 2030, while a full switch to hydrogen-only could be completed nationwide by 2050.
Hydrogen project leader Angela Ogier said the change to hydrogen could create dozens of jobs in a potential new regional energy industry - making hydrogen to power factories, homes and transport as well as to store energy for periods of high demand.
The report found that gas infrastructure in the Bay is made of modern materials and equipment that can be repurposed to supply green hydrogen – a zero-carbon alternative to natural gas.
The hydrogen can be made in the Bay, mixed into natural gas, and distributed by pipeline to commercial customers such as those in agriculture, horticulture, and hospitality, and to residential customers.
Ogier said businesses and households will not need to change their gas appliances just yet to accommodate the blending of hydrogen into natural gas.
"They will have 20 years or more to switch to hydrogen-friendly appliances when old equipment reaches the end of its life."
The report identifies three potential Bay bases for hydrogen generation in Edgecumbe, Mount Maunganui and Tauranga. The sites are best suited because of their proximity to the gas and electricity networks and water supplies. Newly-built electrolyser plants would use electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.
"Changing to zero or low-emission gases would mean more energy options for local consumers, and a totally new industry in the local economy," explained Ogier.
"The hydrogen would be made by new businesses, hiring local workers and suppliers. It would be blended into the local network without customers needing to change equipment just yet."
Ogier said the plan was to start gradually, generating enough Bay hydrogen to blend into natural gas, and producing enough by 2050 to displace natural gas entirely.
"At that point, we envisage hydrogen would also be fuelling totally new uses such as powering trains, buses and trucks."
Ogier said a local energy industry would increase the ability of the region to handle fluctuations in demand and supply, and outages, across all types of energy.
The next stages of work include collaboration with companies interested in building hydrogen generators, identifying blending systems, pricing studies and fine-tuning with large gas customers.
Mt Ruapehu on the hunt for staff
Mt Ruapehu is calling out to Kiwis with a love of the outdoors and winter sport to head to the maunga for some winter fun – and offering them a job opportunity while they're there.
With the borders still closed to international ski staff, Mt Ruapehu is offering New Zealand qualification level training to help recruit staff to work on the ski slopes over the winter.
Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL) general manager Jono Dean says when Covid-19 unexpectedly hit the business had to manage with 25 instructors instead of its usual 120 at Whakapapa, due to the majority of numbers being made up from international instructors.
"The lack of staff of course led to a reduced service offering on the mountain and this year we're determined to source some more staff to continue our great service.
"It means that it's a perfect opportunity for Kiwis to come and work and enjoy a winter on the mountain at the same time."
Coming down to go up
The Thirty Eight Elizabeth development is marking another major milestone this weekend – the removal of its first tower crane – signalling completion of the development is in sight.
On track for retail to open by Christmas, the crane's removal marks completion of the multi-level retail levels up to the "podium", where the residential Sky Garden will be hosted. These retail levels include the state-of-the-art Farmers store and four levels of car parking for retail and food and beverage customers.
"We are thrilled with the progress being made," says project manager Brett Nicholls. "The site team – 250 people - recently celebrated completing the podium level with a buffet lunch on one of the car parking levels. It was impressive to see the large team together.
"The podium is also the roof on Farmers' upper level, which now complete means we have been able to make a start on the stunning new fitout of the Farmers store. We intend to have it open for Christmas shopping."
Local company HEB manufactured all the concrete floors for the retail and car park areas in their Te Puke yard. This included an impressive 712 double tee units, weighing 5200 tonnes, which took about 255 trucks to deliver to site.
The removal of the grey crane, which has occupied the skyline in the heart of Tauranga City since December 2019, will allow for the fitout to continue in earnest and means the townhouses atop the podium level on the First Avenue side of the development can commence.
The crane is scheduled to come down on Sunday.
"With the removal of this crane, we are now able to see the interior fitouts come to life and the light at the end of this transformational build for Tauranga. The wider benefits that it will bring to the central city are exciting to say the least," says Kelvin Eden from RCP.
On the residential side of the development – Elizabeth Towers – the towers are now at almost full height. April marks installation of the penthouse floor on the east tower, with the taller West Tower due to be installed by mid year. The first show apartment and townhouse are expected to be open for viewing in the last quarter of this year.
Kiwi-owned Shosha to use travel bubble for transtasman expansion
The opening of a quarantine-free travel bubble will see the rapid expansion of one of New Zealand's largest speciality retail chains throughout Australia.
NZ-owned retailer Shosha, which has stores in Rotorua and Tauranga, plans to open 10 new stores in Queensland's Gold Coast before Christmas.
It also plans to open 10 new stores in New South Wales and Victoria in the first half of next year - if suitable locations can be found.
During the pandemic, the company's export plans have been stalled due to a lack of physical access to the Australian market.
Nabhik Gupta, spokesman for Shosha, one of NZ's largest retailer of e-cigarettes, says the company has grown by 17 stores in the past year.
"Our retail footprint now extends to 74 stores around NZ - giving us a presence in every major city or town in the country.
"We have reached a point where the natural next step for our business is to progress our expansion plans into the Australian market.
"We have progressed these plans as far as we can from this side of the Tasman with Australian leasing agents - all that remains is for us to visit each site before we open the stores."
Gupta says although there are significant regulatory differences between the two countries, they have already tested the market over the past year with the opening of an inner-city store in Sydney.
"The launch of our first store in Sydney has been well received in a rapidly growing market and has given us sufficient confidence that we can scale up the export of our New Zealand retail model throughout Australia."
Inflationary pressure building despite strong March for retailers
The Retail NZ Sales Index shows average retail spending per site was up 29.8 per cent in March compared to last year.
But the results are uneven across the sector, and inflationary pressures are building, according to Retail NZ's latest Retail Radar report.
Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said while the increase in retail spending was positive it was really a reflection of just how difficult trading conditions were in March 2020 as the economy slowed in level 4 lockdown.
"Despite the fact that spending was up in the first quarter of the year, not all retailers are seeing the benefits.
"Forty-two per cent of retailers did not hit their sales targets for the last quarter, and more than two-thirds of Auckland retailers failed to perform.
"This was attributable to Auckland yo-yoing in and out of a level 3 lockdown in February and March this year."
Harford said there were significant inflationary pressures building, as the cost of procurement and freight increase, and the cost of employing staff goes up.
"Around two-thirds of Retail NZ members expect to see prices increase over the next quarter. Retailers operate on very thin margins – the average net margin across the sector is just 3.9 per cent - so when you have big cost increases, such as we have seen with freight and wage inflation, retailers need to be able to pass these on."
New senior leader appointment
The University of Waikato has appointed its very first assistant vice-chancellor of sustainability.
Professor Lynda Johnston will be based at the university's Tauranga campus.
While Johnston is based in the Bay, her role is across the whole organisation and she will shape the University's strategic academic approach to sustainability and environmental management, and provide academic leadership and oversight of activities as measured against the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It's very much a multi-faceted role making positive environmental and social impacts through the University's partnerships, research, technology, teaching, operations, community engagement and leadership.
Alongside her role as Professor of Geography, Johnston is also the Aotearoa New Zealand delegate to the International Geographical Union (IGU), and has previously chaired the Gender and Geography Commission of the IGU, as well as being president of the New Zealand Geographical Society.
"Lynda is an exceptional woman and we are very lucky to have her as a leader at the Tauranga campus," a university spokesperson said.
Five new scholarships for Tauranga students
Five Tauranga local school leavers will head off to tertiary study with a welcome financial boost, thanks to a suite of scholarships from local company Ryan+Alexander.
The Tauranga recruitment agency launched the scholarships to mark five years in business.
Co-director Bernadette Ryan-Hopkins says it's gratifying to be able to pay forward that support to five hard-working, motivated school-leavers.
"This is our way of saying thank you to Tauranga for all the support this city has shown our business across our first five years.
"We're so excited to be able to help some local school-leavers achieve their tertiary education goals."
Co-director Kiri Burney says the agency has loved the past five years in business.
"Now we get to celebrate this milestone by launching a scholarship to help five local school-leavers equip themselves to join the workforce."
Scholarship recipients will be chosen from Tauranga Boys' and Girls' colleges, Mount Maunganui College, Otumoetai College and Papamoa College.
To be eligible, applicants must be committed to completing their full programme of study at a Tauranga tertiary campus and be able to demonstrate both academic excellence and community involvement. Each recipient will receive $3500 over the course of their chosen study programme.
The scholarships will be administered by Tauranga scholarship specialists Acorn Foundation. Applications will be run by each school and are likely to open around August. Recipients will be announced at end-of-year prizegiving.
Acorn general manager Lori Luke thanked Ryan+Alexander for the agency's generosity towards local students.
"These scholarships will make a significant difference to five students who will undertake their tertiary education here in the Western Bay of Plenty."
Trade Me hops across the ditch
Online marketplace and classifieds site Trade Me has announced it plans to expand its bubble and hop over the ditch, launching its full offering in the Australian market next year under the name Trade Mate.
Trade Me CEO Anders Skoe said it felt like the right time for the company to make the
Despite the upcoming changes, Skoe said the New Zealand market would remain a key focus for Trade Me.
Trade Mate will launch on April 1, 2022.
UBCO gets green light to accelerate EV adoption
Kiwi eco-tech company UBCO is gearing up for widespread adoption of its utility electric bikes across New Zealand farms, businesses and households thanks to funding from government-backed Carbn Group.
Carbn Group is partnering with Tauranga headquartered UBCO to provide asset finance for a new subscription service model.
The group has gained investment from New Zealand Green Investment Finance Ltd (NZGIF – also known as the "Green Fund"), a crown-owned company established to accelerate low emissions investment in New Zealand.
The partnership will fast-track UBCO CEO Timothy Allan's vision to have an UBCO electric utility vehicle on every farm in New Zealand, which represents a $1.4 billion per year opportunity for the global company.
Allan said it made sense to expand to the agricultural sector, which is where the business was built.
"This coincides with the introduction of the off-road 2x2 Work Bike and now with the backing of a finance partner that is dedicated to the transition away from carbon fuels, the offer makes sense for farms' cashflow and planning."
Instead of buying an EV outright, UBCO's subscription model means businesses and consumers can pay a fixed monthly fee covering the bike, battery and servicing while UBCO retains ownership and stewardship of the product.
"Subscription means low upfront costs, and it includes servicing and maintenance so there are no unplanned costs. It's basically a no hassle way of running a bike or a fleet of bikes. And the bikes are a more sustainable transport option, both during use and at the end of life."