Natural gas does not just save us from burning coal. It saved us from nuclear. In the 1960s, nuclear power was seriously considered for this country until the discovery of the Maui gas field in Taranaki 1969:
In 1968, the national power plan first identified the likely need for nuclear power in New Zealand a decade or more ahead, since readily-developed hydro-electric sites had been utilized. Plans were made and a site at Oyster Point on the Kaipara harbour near Auckland was reserved for the first plant. Four 250 MWe reactors were envisaged, to supply 80% of Auckland’s needs by 1990. But then the Maui gas field was discovered, along with coal reserves near Huntly, and the project was abandoned by 1972.
In 1976, the Royal Commission on Nuclear Power Generation in New Zealand was set up to inquire further into the question. Its 1978 report said that there was no immediate need for New Zealand to embark upon a nuclear power program, but suggested that early in the 21st Century “a significant nuclear programme should be economically possible.”
Stuff reports the discovery of uranium on the West Coast in 1955 occurred when two drunk guys stopped to relieve themselves on the side of the road and decided to try out their new Geiger counter.
In the 1970s, Norman Kirk’s Labour government set up its own group of scientists to look into the matter. National turned it into an election issue by promising to fully investigate the possibility of nuclear power in its manifesto.
Imagine that, the two main political parties fighting for nuclear.
And good on them. Nuclear is a wonderful technology.