Minister Shane Jones discusses New Zealand’s resources sector

Minister Shane Jones discusses New Zealand’s resources sector


The Honourable Shane Jones discusses the New Zealand government's pro-mining strategy. Topics touched on include: the rationale behind invigorating the resources sector, statutory reforms to boost investment, and commodities New Zealand possesses.

Paul Sanger: Hello. I'm Paul Sanger with the Finance News Network, and today I am speaking with the Honourable Shane Jones. Minister Jones holds several key positions in the New Zealand government, including Minister for Oceans and Fisheries, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Resources, Associate Minister of Finance and Associate Minister for Energy.

Minister Jones began his parliamentary career with the Labour Party in 2005 and joined New Zealand First as an MP in 2017. He has an educational background from St Stephens and has completed degrees at universities in Wellington, Western Australia and Harvard. His extensive career includes leadership roles in business and the public sector, such as Chairman of Sealord, and serving as New Zealand's first Pacific Economic Ambassador.

Welcome to the network, Minister.

Shane Jones: Hey, greetings, and it's a pleasure to be here back in West Australia where I was 40 years ago.

Paul Sanger: There you go. So, let's get straight into it, Minister. You recently announced a draft strategy for minerals and mining in New Zealand. Could you start by outlining the key points of this proposed policy and its potential impact on resource companies?

Shane Jones: Yeah. Since our government was formed last October, November, we've focused on minerals as a key contributor, not only to the country's resilience, but also as a response to heightened geopolitical uncertainties and obviously as a way of boosting our regional development and our export earnings. As you may know, New Zealand has no single monumental footprint like Aussie does with its mining, so we have to do a variety of things very well. That includes farming, dairy, forestry, fisheries, horticulture, wine-making, and we've allowed mining, certainly in the majority of my adult life, to become an orphan child. So, the strategy you're referring to, a pro-mining strategy, a deep dive as to what are the critical rare earth minerals that we have in our landscape, we're probably a report or two behind you Aussies, but we genuinely believe, and we've been encouraged by the geological work that has been done by the private sector, that there are a host of opportunities which will improve our ability to not only profit, but to contribute towards global supply lines in relation to rare earth minerals.

Paul Sanger: So, the draft strategy indicates the government's interest in fostering further growth in the mining and resources sector. How much expansion does the government envision for the industry in New Zealand?

Shane Jones: Well, like a lot of other western countries, New Zealand has been beset by a bout of mining-related culture war exchanges. And as we search for ways to fund and progress on the journey of decarbonisation, we, as a new government, have stood back and said, "Right, one of the obstacles confronting investors, both international and domestic, is the statutory approvals process." And our government has introduced into parliament, destined to pass by the end of this year, a package of statutory reforms, which will represent one-stop-shop opportunity for investors to gain the necessary consents for resource development projects, infrastructure projects, marine farming projects, anything that's of critical importance to boosting the productivity or indeed the resilience of a region.

Now, this is a big change in terms of the political economy of New Zealand, and it takes a punt that, in order to grow the breadth and the volume of our export earnings, we've got to simplify the regulatory framework, and this is going to have a dramatic impact on the mining sector. It does not mean that the mining sector will be held accountable for a less desirable set of outcomes, but it gives certainty and provides clarity, which you know as well as I do, I'm sure, when you have the protracted processes and applications become stagnated, investment, which is a competitive game now, often dries up and goes elsewhere.

Paul Sanger: Yeah, and that's a problem globally at the moment, Minister, when it comes to resources, so I hear you loud and clear. Now, let's talk, what specific commodities is the government aiming to promote through this strategy, and what are the reasons behind these choices?

Shane Jones: Well, one of the most profound resources we have is ironsands in New Zealand. They're both based on land as well as in the ocean. A group of investors are endeavouring to extract ironsands from the ocean off the west coast of our north island. And, as a part of those resources, we have a rare earth mineral called vanadium. And at the moment we already have quite a robust ironsands sector. We already have coking coal, which is of a very high quality. We have a bunch of gold mines. And, associated with that, more people are both exploring and bringing to market rare earth minerals, including antinomy. Now, we have, not unlike yourselves, but for us a vastly smaller amount of lithium, titanium, and that's the reason why we've got Woodside (ASX:WDS) undertaking our investigation into where these minerals are located, what's the accessibility and what changes we may need to make in policy to accelerate the delivery of that range of mineral.

Paul Sanger: And, Minister, to finish off, how supportive is the current government towards new mining projects and developments?

Shane Jones: Our government has hit the running track in a very, very eager and vigorous way. We represent three parties, and the party that I belong to is the New Zealand First Party, who wants to deepen the country's resilience by using more of our own resources and hopefully limiting the reliance on importing resources because, at the moment in New Zealand, we have a significant problem related to the amount of natural gas we're able to extract from below the earth and maintaining enough momentum with investors to continue to explore and bring to market that natural gas. And, as a consequence of the declining levels of gas, we're now reliant at the margin on Indonesian coal. So, we're learning to be a lot more pragmatic because all governments want to not only pursue economic growth, but they want an affordable and reliable level of energy. So, no one should doubt the zest or indeed the long-term commitment that the current government, in particular this minister, has in relation to expanding our footprint, but also ensuring that the mineral sector plays a higher role in boosting our ability to contribute significantly to our geopolitical alliance partners.

Paul Sanger: Minister, it's been an absolute pleasure speaking with you today, and really appreciate you taking the time and sharing your insights. Many thanks.

Shane Jones: Thanks, mate. Go well.

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