National policy on fracking urged

IAIN SCOTT
Last updated 07:33 05/06/2014
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Anti-fracking campaigners in Tararua are concerned a report that finds regulations in New Zealand are inadequate to manage the risks posed by the proliferation of oil and gas drilling may not be taken seriously.

Parliamentary commissioner for the environment Dr Jan Wright has released her final report on fracking, the hydraulic fracturing of rock to release fossil fuels.

"The ‘Taranaki approach' cannot be simply extrapolated across a country of such varying geology and hydrogeology," she said.

Fracking would almost certainly be required if exploration wells were to yield "unconventional" oil in commercial quantities and become production wells.

"This may be a very different proposition from the ‘tightsands' fracking that has been done in Taranaki for over 20 years."

She recommended the Government develop a national policy statement. Regional council plans should include better rules for dealing with wells, which in turn should be designed to minimise the risk of leaking into aquifers.

Processes around who paid if something went wrong needed improvement, as did enforcement of regulations on hazardous substances Disposal of waste on farmland needed review.

Tararua Mayor Roly Ellis said there would be discussions once there had been time to digest the information. "Until I've read the whole thing it's very difficult for me to comment too much, but certainly we will be sitting down with the regional council and working out what this really means. No doubt the oil companies will as well."

Tararua Frack Free member Daphne Miller was concerned no-one would take responsibility for the report's implementation.

"The regulations certainly don't go far enough, but it's the follow-up that's a problem as far as I can see.

"When we ask questions we get put from one department to another department and no-one wants to take responsibility."

Anti-fracking campaigner Richard Green welcomed the report's conclusion. "I would agree with that assessment, but where do we go from here? Are we developing locally the ability to test or to do what we can to protect ourselves, because the oil companies are left to self-moderate."

Environment Minister Amy Adams said her ministry would monitor the effectiveness of its own guidelines issued in March, and the report would inform any review.

Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges said energy and minerals provided unique opportunities to grow the economy. "But it's not about development at any cost, and the Government is committed to developing our resources in a safe and environmentally responsible way."

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- Manawatu Standard

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