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Ardern celebrates green energy and kiwifruit in Tokyo

Hydrogen fuel and geothermal energy projects highlight New Zealand's partnership with Japan in efforts to become carbon neutral, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Trade Minister Damien O'Connor at a Zespri kiwifruit event on their trade delegation's first day in Tokyo.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Trade Minister Damien O'Connor at a Zespri kiwifruit event on their trade delegation's first day in Tokyo. Photo: RNZ / Craig McCulloch

Ardern, who landed in Tokyo on the second leg of her Asia trade delegation overnight, was joined by Toyota NZ chief executive Nareej Lala to announce a hydrogen-fuel car-sharing scheme based in Auckland.

The scheme would feature the Toyota Mirai, which uses fuel-cell technology, in partnership with eight New Zealand companies.

She said Japan was a natural partner for New Zealand in efforts to reduce emissions in areas like transport and geothermal energy.

The government also plans to spend $20 million to roll out a series of hydrogen refuelling stations across the North Island for heavy freight trucks. The stations would be build by New Zealand company Hiringa and Japanese company Mitsui & Co.

"For New Zealand ... we have a competitive edge, we have the ability to produce green hydrogen and there are markets that are looking for it," she said.

"Singapore and Japan for instance, they have great ambitions around clean energy. We have geothermal, they have the tech around hydrogen, these partnerships make great sense and have huge potential for us as a coutnry meeting our climate goals but also growing our economy."

Japan's Obayashi Corporation was also working with Tauropaki Trust to open New Zealand's first hydrogen production plant, and Obayashi was also working with Ports of Auckland on a green hydrogen production facility and refuelling infrastructure.

At the Tokyo Tower earlier, she and GNS Science chief executive Ian Simpson also celebrated the opening of a new GNS office in the city to develop geothermal technology in Japan.

At a Zespri event earlier, Ardern also tried her hand at calligraphy while launching the annual kiwifruit sales season. She was photographed with the company's mascots, the Kiwifruit Brothers - two giant walking dancing kiwifruit.

She also wrote the word "kiwifruit" in calligraphy, while the Trade Minister Damien O'Connor decorated a pavlova.

Japan is a massive market for New Zealand's kiwifruit, worth about $600 million last year.

Later tonight, she will sit down with her Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida - their first conversation since his election last year.

Ardern said bilateral talks like this were ongoing conversations between the two countries.

"It's a chance to touch base, to discuss the really important regional issues that we have in front of us ... it's a continuation of that exchange, we've had really good relationships with [former Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe, and we expect that to continue with the new leader."