Drill rig bound for Stewart Island

Greymouth Petroleum is sending drilling equipment to Stewart Island – despite the Southland District Council saying it does not have consent to drill a well there.

The machinery was planned to be on its way to Stewart Island today after being loaded aboard the barge Patiki in Bluff.

The barge will carry a drilling rig, a truck, a crane, a digger and several containers of equipment as workers get ready to start the search for gas on the island.

Greymouth wants to drill an exploratory well in an abandoned quarry, but has not obtained consent from the Southland District Council.

The council's senior resource management planner, Jennifer Green, said Greymouth had two consent applications lodged.

The council had asked for further information for both applications, she said.

It was not known whether the application would require a hearing, she said, but affected parties would be consulted.

She said she did not know why Greymouth was sending equipment to the island now.

Greymouth has also applied for consents from Environment Southland, she said.

The Stewart Island party includes Rob Tucker, a cameraman, who will be documenting the project. The barge will come ashore at Horseshoe Bay and the machinery unloaded before being taken to the drilling site.

Stewart Island community board chairman John Spraggon said the quarry was about 200 metres from the barge landing, on the north side of the bay.

"It comes in on the near [Halfmoon Bay] side because that's where the moorings are for the barges," he said. "The quarry's halfway down Horseshoe Bay."

Mr Spraggon said the island roads should cope with the trucks. He understood they would be kept to a load limit of 30 tonnes.

It was an unusual event for the island to see so much equipment brought over from the mainland, he said.

Mr Spraggon and the island's Southland District councillor, Bruce Ford, have generally been supportive of the drilling.

They said most of the islanders had no objection to it.

However, some residents were opposed to the idea because they feared it would damage tourism, the island's economic mainstay.

Greymouth extended its exploration permit across most of the inhabited part of the island last month.

None of the land is part of Rakiura National Park and any further drilling would require new consents from Southland District Council.

Greymouth Petroleum could not be contacted yesterday afternoon.

The Southland Times