Oil exploration gets approval

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 06:39 28/02/2013

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Oil and gas exploration near Dannevirke has been given the go-ahead by the Tararua District Council but the Horizons Regional Council is still making up its mind.

At a meeting in Dannevirke yesterday, the district council approved two resource consent applications for North American energy companies Tag Oil Ltd and Apache Corporation to drill wells and bores on private land.

The exploratory work was first touted in November last year with both councils requesting more information from the interested parties.

With the information now in, the district council decided to allow the exploration work to go ahead.

However, Horizons has said it is still in the process of considering the extra details.

The consent reports show a four-week period of 24-hour drilling is proposed on a property in Mangahei Rd, 17 kilometres east of Dannevirke, and one at Ngapaeruru Rd, 2km further east.

It would involve setting up a rig, drilling a well at a depth of about 2km and then testing for on-shore petrol resources.

If such resources are found, the consent process would begin about the likelihood of extraction and the techniques used.

After the meeting, Tararua District Council chief executive Blair King said it was the first request for exploration the council had received, but it saw future benefits. 

‘‘If it does ever come off... then we have the opportunity, effectively, to extract a high economic return as a district.’’

The council hadn’t ‘‘formally expressed’’ an opinion on any extraction methods, especially fracking, Mr King said.

Fracking is an oil and gas drilling technique, also known as hydraulic fracturing, where fluid-containing chemicals and sand are injected into rocks to break them up.

‘‘It’d be a difficult one because we do not have a role in that; it’d be like trying to pass a view on GMOs [genetically modified organisms] or something similar.’’

The decision on extraction would be made by the regional council, Mr King said.

‘‘They deal with everything underneath the ground and we deal with what’s on top of it.’’

Tag and Apache’s application to Horizons asks about drilling bores, discharging stormwater, contaminants and combustion gases, and not about extraction at this stage.

But last year, Horizons did discuss the possibility of fracking in Tararua and received mixed responses from regional councillors.

Horizons group manager of strategy and regulation Nic Peet presented to the council the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s interim report into the environmental impacts of fracking in New Zealand 

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Yesterday, Dr Peet said Horizons has received resource consent applications for the proposed drilling of exploratory wells  but had not received any applications to use fracking.

Tag and Apache plan to spend up to $100 million in pursuit of a 14-billion-barrel windfall on three sprawling East Coast properties, including in Tararua, covering 680,000 hectares.

The companies have asked for Horizons and Tararua consents to be handled as non-notified, without being subject to public hearings. 

Consultants for the partnership said the drilling operations would have ‘‘less than minor’’ effects beyond the people who had given their written approval already.

- Manawatu Standard

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