13 Jun 2017

NZ's biowaste profits going to waste

2:51 pm on 13 June 2017

New Zealand is missing out on a multi-billion-dollar waste product industry, according to the Bioenergy Association.

Eastland Port Gisborne.

Eastland Port Gisborne. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

It said New Zealand was being left behind by other nations such as Australia in using biowaste for energy, fertiliser, plastics or other useful products.

The Bioenergy Association's Executive Officer Brian Cox said research several years ago by the economics consultancy BERL put the value of the bio industry at $6bn.

It would now be significantly higher than that, and he gave several examples of how this country was missing out.

He said New Zealand was exporting raw logs, which meant that stripped bark and sawdust from sawmills was available to meet the energy needs of countries that import New Zealand logs, but is not available in New Zealand.

Mr Cox said development of other bio industries were proceeding elsewhere, but not here, and he cited Queensland as a positive example.

"The announcement by Queensland University of Technology that it is leading a $14 million research programme to develop profitable processes for turning livestock-industry wastes into bioenergy and other bioproducts, such as fertilisers, animal feeds, chemicals and plastics, shows what we should and could do here," Mr Cox said.

"That project in conjunction with Meat & Livestock Australia shows the value of cross-sector coordination."

Mr Cox said by 2040, biomass and waste-based industries could supply more than 15 percent of New Zealand's energy needs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent.

"You would think that with opportunities such as this, that the government would be showing more interest than it does," he said.

"If we can use our ability as a leading technology developer in America's Cup yacht racing, we can use that capability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"We can be a global participant or sit and watch international boat races where our technology is being used by all other competitors."

Mr Cox said solving New Zealand greenhouse gas emissions with carbon credits bought overseas sends money offshore to no lasting benefit.

It could instead be used to help New Zealand industry.

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