Fracking no good for eco-tourism

One year ago, had you asked anyone what fracking was, the likelihood is that they couldn't tell you.

But the controversial topic is becoming more present on social networking sites and amongst communities around New Zealand, and one local in particular is keen to bring it to the attention on a local level.

Ralph Hogan, who moved to Kaikoura in part because of its environmental principles and efforts with minimising waste, says the Kaikoura District Council and the community need to make a stand with immediate effect before a whole raft of issues presents itself, potentially compromising Kaikoura's integrity.

Mr Hogan, who approached council at its meeting in December last year to discuss fracking, tabled the subject again on the Tourism and Development committee's agenda last week. Fracking is the injection of fluid into rock to recover fossil fuels.

Mr Hogan asked committee members to support a recommendation to council that a moratorium on fracking be sought from central government until more information on the practice can be researched.

The request comes after Christchurch City Council wrote a letter to minister of energy and resources Phil Heatley asking for the same.

Mr Hogan went one step further than the request from Christchurch, and said Kaikoura should insist all fracking resource consent applications be publicly notified. Currently the RMA states that only the adjacent neighbour need be informed.

Mr Hogan said public notification was essential, not only for anyone concerned about the quality of groundwater but also because there could be specific expertise within a community which could be of benefit.

His third concern was that offshore blocks were about to start being sold and Kaikoura waters would not be immune to this. This had the potential to undermine efforts made by coastal guardian group Te Korowai O Te Tai O Marokura, who were in the midst of finalising a strategy for the protection of the area, including marine reserves. Not to mention any adverse effects on marine life, as yet unknown.

"Both from the standpoint of real and perceived views, it would be very detrimental to the narrow field we have here," he said.

"We are pretty tied to tourism, eco-tourism in particular."

Regardless of how successful council's efforts turned out to be, it was important for Kaikoura to speak up and stand by its Green Globe/Earth Check policies, he said.

Tourism operators around the table agreed, saying the argument needed to be focused on the unique qualities of Kaikoura. Encounter Kaikoura owner Lynette Buurman said something had to be done.

"It's not just about marine mammals, it's our ocean, fisheries and environment... we have to stand together and be cautious about this."

Whale Watch Kaikoura chief operating officer Kauahi Ngapora said it was also extremely important for the committee and the wider council to start making noise and reminding others what Te Korowai was working towards.

"From my perspective it's black and white... we don't want any forms of oil or gas exploration whatsoever."

In a statement released last week energy and resources minister Phil Heatley has welcomed the latest block offer process for awarding gas and oil exploration permits in selected areas. The 2012 proposed block offer covers 25 areas, a move labelled by Mr Heatley as "an important step in developing New Zealand's significant resource wealth".

Kaikoura Star