Exploration rights may be offered
Oil exploration could be heading to Manawatu, with land around Ashhurst included in part of the Government's proposed next block offer.
The Government is consulting with councils and iwi across the country leading up to the 2014 block offer, in which 434,000 square kilometres of on- and off-shore space may be offered for tender to oil companies to explore.
On the East Coast, 3142 square kilometres of land is proposed to be part of the offer.
The area stretches from above Takapau to below Pahiatua, and reaches through the Manawatu Gorge to land north and south of Ashhurst.
Palmerston North mayor Jono Naylor said he knew there was tension around oil exploration.
"It is something that can polarise communities, so I'm aware that we have to be mindful of each other.
"Some people really hate this, and others are really excited by the possible job creation from discoveries."
If oil was found near Ashhurst, which is inside the Palmerston North boundary, that would be the time to express opinions, he said.
"Before people get too excited about oil, either being positive or negative, it makes sense to see what is there and what isn't."
Tensions have risen in Tararua in relation to oil exploration, with a well drilled near Ngapaeruru Rd, east of Dannevirke.
The new block offer could see drilling become more widespread across Tararua.
Tararua Frack Free member Dani White said more people may start to sit up and make their opinions on oil exploration known now that it could happen closer to home.
She said she was not surprised that more areas in Tararua could be opened up to exploration. "We are supposed to be the new Texas."
Tararua Frack Free would probably work with any protest groups in Manawatu who wanted to protest, she said.
Tararua mayor Roly Ellis said there was not much point in commenting on how the block offer could affect Woodville and Pahiatua, as the block areas were not finalised.
The council was better prepared to deal with this block offer, as it had learned much from the first offer in the area more than a year ago, he said.
Staff from Tararua District Council had been talking to Taranaki Regional Council to get advice.
Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges said oil exploration may not take place in all the areas which were part of the block offer.
"It's important to find out what's there and use the information to develop New Zealand's untapped resource wealth.
"But this is not about development at any cost."
Consultation with iwi and councils begins today and will take place until November, with permits for the blocks likely to be announced by the end of next year.
Last year, oil and mineral exports excluding coal were worth $2.8 billion to New Zealand's economy.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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