Energy security in New Zealand politics: risk perceptions and political agendas

Author: Tyndall, Lucy Sarah Moor

Date: 2013

Publisher: Victoria University of Wellington

Type: Scholarly text, Master's

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Victoria University of Wellington


Energy security is a subjective concept, as to different actors it invokes different meanings and thoughts about risk. It is highly political because it is at the heart of the debate between the environmental consequences of burning fossil fuels and the economic consequences of constraining this consumption. How a government perceives energy security provides an important indication of how they intend to approach the complexity of current energy issues. No more important is energy security to consider than in New Zealand. As this thesis will show, the term is used in New Zealand's policy-making circles but it is not referred to consistently. This thesis will use the Copenhagen School's Theory of Securitisation and delineate the key features of energy security in New Zealand politics. It will show that there has been two distinct rhetorical politicisations of energy security that argue for two divergent energy policies. First, the Clark Labour Government used a strategy of politicisation to bring energy security risks onto the political agenda. This sought to legitimise strong government leadership in the energy sector to support the development of robust climate change policy. The second rhetorical politicisation is at the heart of the Key National Government, where energy security is subsumed to the immediate concern for economic growth in the wake of the global economic recession. Thus there is a heightened concern for short-term risk to security of energy supply and New Zealand's role in contributing to global energy security. The nature of energy security issues and how they are integrated with other policy challenges remain in dispute. Consequently, energy security is a highly contested and politicised concept in New Zealand politics.

Subjects: Energy security, Climate change, New Zealand