The New Zealand Motor Industry Association – representing new car importers – said the proposed development of the country's first nationwide hydrogen refuelling network would provide an important step towards a low emissions transport sector.

Chief executive David Crawford said this was "an exciting prospect and New Zealand has a lot of scope to produce clean hydrogen".

"We need to reduce emissions from our vehicle fleet and hydrogen can play an important role."

Producing hydrogen from renewable electricity backed up by abundant gas resources in the Taranaki region [mid west coast, North Island] would have a big impact on transport emissions and help to lower the carbon footprint.

"We need to be prepared to use all forms of low emission fuels, and not just focus on electricity."

Crawford said new car distributors were "very supportive of the prospect of a clean green transport future".

"It's clear there are good business opportunities for hydrogen development and distribution as demonstrated by the proposed partnership between Hiringa Energy and the Waitomo Group.

"A comprehensive hydrogen production and refuelling network would provide an important new source of fuel, not only for heavy vehicles, but increasingly for cars.

"Hydrogen vehicles are currently already in use in the UK, US, Japan, Korea and Europe and, last year, Hyundai unveiled its hydrogen-powered SUV at Mystery Creek Fieldays [an annual agricultural equipment show]."

Following the 1970s oil crises, New Zealand developed a compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle refuelling network using indigenous energy supplies but this fell out of favour within a decade or so.