Fracking probe raises hopes

JARED SMITH
Last updated 05:00 29/03/2012

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Both sides of the fracking debate are welcoming news of an official and independent investigation.

Dr Jan Wright, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, announced the investigation yesterday.

Preliminary work on hydraulic fracturing, the process of pumping water and chemicals into wells to release oil and gas, had indicated there was a need for an examination, she said.

"Over the next few months my staff and I will conduct this investigation and produce a report to Parliament," she said.

The report would be presented before the end of the year, she said.

But while the move is what Taranaki's strongest opponents of hydraulic fracturing have long called for, they say a moratorium is still needed in this region while the investigation is under way.

The Taranaki Regional Council has given fracking practices by oil companies in the region the all-clear after separate studies into its effects on water aquifers and potential to cause earthquakes.

TRC chief executive Basil Chamberlain said the council welcomed Dr Wright's decision.

"The council looks forward to working with the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to assist with the official investigation."

David Robinson, chief executive of the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association, said the inquiry will give the industry "a chance to put the facts on the table".

"We have nothing to hide and everything to gain from participating in an open and honest dialogue with all interested parties.

"The practice of hydraulic fracturing has occurred in oil and natural gas reservoirs in Taranaki since 1993 in 28 wells.

"In that time there have been no incidents of drinking water contamination, land contamination or earthquakes linked to hydraulic fracturing."

Teresa Goodin, of Climate Justice Taranaki, said independent research was needed, not what the petroleum industry and their contractors provided.

"While TRC now require consents for drilling and the commissioner's inquiry has the go-ahead, we still need to stop the fracking going on right now.

"The TRC needs to admit that reports based on the petroleum companies' own data are simply not good enough.

"Fracking has already caused too much damage in Taranaki – it's time to stop."

South Taranaki district councillor Michael Self said it needed to be seen how "wide" the inquiry would go.

"There's still big concern on the way some of our local authorities, in particular the TRC, have given carte blanche to the oil companies to appear to do what they want.

"We've got to make sure that we don't end up with a huge rush of the oil companies trying to get in before the report comes out and end up doing a lot of damage."

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Ngaere resident Sarah Roberts said while the investigation was "essential", the moratorium was "crucial".

"There are 40 wells and a new production station [Cheal/Cardiff] to be consented for next to Stratford – and that is since last August – and the industry has said they will be fracked.

"There are more wells going in already at Kapuni where there is already groundwater contamination from fracking fluids at several sites.

"I feel very strongly for my family and community's safety that there must be a moratorium."

- Taranaki Daily News

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