Smith: Fracking debate like Chicken Licken

Nick Smith
Nick Smith

There's more to fear from the vibration of your mobile phone than from the earth movements caused by fracking, former environment minister Nick Smith says.

He has dismissed concerns that fracking could trigger small earthquakes, saying the same was true for all sorts of engineering works, including constructing bridges and building piles.

"A magnitude-4 earthquake was triggered by the filling of Lake Pukaki in the 1960s."

Dr Smith has criticised local bodies that have banned fracking.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves injecting water and chemicals deep into underground rocks to fracture them to release oil and natural gas.

It has been banned in some countries after concerns about water and air pollution, and has been linked to small earthquakes.

The parliamentary commissioner for the environment has launched an official investigation into fracking.

Dr Smith said hysteria was sweeping the country about the practice, and he called for some "science and commonsense" to be injected into the debate.

He likened the fracking debate to a modern-day version of the Chicken Licken story, in which a hen thinks the sky is falling in after an acorn hits her head.

He accused the Christchurch City Council of "jumping on the Greens' ‘Don't Frack with New Zealand' bandwagon", saying fracking had been done in New Zealand for decades and was used in the building of the Clyde Dam.

But Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said Christchurch had experienced 12,500 quakes, so it was "entirely reasonable" for the city to ban the controversial practice until someone could provide evidence it would not trigger more of them.

"We're not going to take a risk on something that we are uncertain about until there is some certainty."

Dr Smith said the argument was not that fracking was risk-free but that the risks were manageable. It was contradictory for the Greens to campaign on creating 100,000 jobs from renewable energy, identify geothermal as a key opportunity and then propose a fracking ban that would kill the industry, he said.

Greens energy spokesman Gareth Hughes said fracking had not been used in the New Zealand geothermal electricity sector and Dr Smith was doing a disservice to the national debate by misrepresenting the facts.

The Press