Research explores geothermal law framework

15 July 2015

Phoebe Parson
Phoebe Parson has received an International Bar Association scholarship

A lack of clarity surrounding geothermal resource management has prompted new research by a University of Waikato masters student.

Phoebe Parson is studying towards her LLM (Master of Laws degree) and is carrying out the research to provide clarity for organisations such as regional councils and commercial users of geothermal resources, such as geothermal energy operators.

The focus of the research is the framework for sharing information about geothermal systems that are in commercial production.

In the course of their operations, the companies that hold resource consents gather information about the geothermal resource, for company purposes.

However, regional councils which administer the resource also need information to carry out their roles as custodians on behalf of the public.

Parson will analyse the existing legal framework for information sharing under the Resource Management Act and compare it with other regimes for managing natural resources, and similar legislation overseas.

Parson says she looks forward to researching an aspect of law she particularly likes.

"I enjoy the interface between environmental law, private and public interest in resource use and how it all comes together," she says.

Her research is being supported by the Waikato Regional Council and the University's Centre for Environmental Resources and Energy Law.

Parson's supervisor Professor Barry Barton says the research has a strong regional and Māori component and is another example of the University of Waikato carrying out useful research into natural resources – particularly renewable geothermal energy.

Professor Barton – one of New Zealand's leading natural resources legal experts - has previously carried out research clarifying the ownership of minerals found in geothermal fluids.

Parson has received further support for her research, becoming the first New Zealander to receive a prestigious scholarship from the International Bar Association's Section on Energy, Environment, Natural Resources and Infrastructure Law.

Parson, who graduated with an LLB in 2014, says the support reinforces her decision to focus on environmental law.

"My interest in environmental law is what prompted me to study law in the first place."