Answers don't ease drilling concerns

One month after Government agencies attended a hui with the Kaikoura community to provide answers to residents' concerns, a list of written answers has been received.

A total of 62 questions were asked of the agencies, compiled by the runanga and community. Some of the questions remain unanswered while others have caused more concern for Kaikoura residents over the safety of deep-sea drilling and the country's ability to deal with a spill.

One hot topic is the impending arrival of the seismic testing boat due in Kaikoura waters any week.

This will be the first step towards exploratory drilling, however the main concern is not the fact it may lead to drilling but the effect it will have on the marine life, on which Kaikoura is so dependent.

Also high on the agenda for concern is the confirmation from Maritime New Zealand that controversial dispersants Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527 are on the list of products which could be used in the event of an oil spill.

The toxic product is banned in 18 countries, including Australia and the UK. It has also been linked to serious health complications and even death in the United States following its use in the Gulf of Mexico disaster.

At the meeting in Kaikoura on November 25, officials said Maritime NZ had received no reports of any cases of ill-health linked to Corexit, a statement some labelled offensive to the relatives of those suffering from exposure to the substance. Council under fire But it is not only the Government agencies under fire. The Kaikoura District Council is also being criticised for its apparent lack of interest in the subject, which has created so much uncertainty and concern in the community.

NoDrill Kaikoura spokesman Ralph Hogan called on the council at its November meeting to resurrect a petroleum sub-committee that had been established to consider off-shore drilling and the associated issues.

Mr Hogan approached the council again last week to repeat the request but there was not sense of urgency.

Mayor Winston Gray would only commit to speak to a council staff member about it.

Mr Hogan said he had hoped for more action on the sub-committee before submissions closed on the possibility of applications for exploratory wells not having to be publicly notified.

Submissions close at the end of January, which is before the council is due to meet again.

Only two councillors, Darlene Morgan and Tony Blunt, attended the two public meetings with the agencies last month.

Mr Gray was at half the first meeting.

Mr Hogan said residents concerned about drilling would have liked to see more commitment from the council.

"This was a missed opportunity for the rest of the councillors and the mayor to hear the real concerns directly from the community around seismic testing off our coast this summer and deep sea oil drilling to follow."

Despite many of the councillors admitting before the election in October they did not know enough about the subject, they were still in the dark, Mr Hogan said.

"I was dismayed hearing how ill-informed some councillors still are on the issues," he said.

"One of them commented on the new blocks being 100km from Kaikoura when, in fact, the new 2014 blocks are 20km from the northern Kaikoura District shoreline, 47km from the peninsula and extend an extra 100km southward, substantially increasing our exposure."

Kaikoura Star