Campaigner and council go head to head over South Taranaki oil and gas rules

Sarah Roberts
Charlotte Curd

Sarah Roberts

An environmental campaigner has been told she has got her wires crossed after she again struck out at a Taranaki council's oil and gas rules. 

A community group known as Taranaki Energy Watch sent out a press release on Wednesday, saying it would be submitting on the South Taranaki District Council's draft district plan, a document which controls the way land is used, developed, protected and subdivided. 

The group's spokeswoman Sarah Roberts said Taranaki Energy Watch would be opposing rules in the plan which "would allow drilling and fracking for oil and gas as close as 150 metres from sensitive activities such as residential properties, schools, maraes and hospitals".

"The plan simply fails to adequately address the high risk effects associated with the petroleum industry," she said.

"Taranaki Energy Watch is calling for a greater separation distance between industry and incompatible activities such as schools.

"This distance must not be set arbitrarily but by looking at the real consequences of a worst case scenario and the effects of having a well-site next door to you every day," she said. 

However, the council's planning manager Blair Sutherland said members of the group were confused. 

"The proposed plan does have a 150 metre setback from some activities, however Taranaki Energy Watch appear to have misunderstood this rule," Sutherland said.

"This setback rule is actually to prevent people from constructing buildings, like dwellings and dairy sheds, closer than 150 metres from existing petroleum exploration and production activities, not the other way round."

Roberts said Taranaki Energy Watch also had concerns with other parts of the plan, such as drilling and fracking on active fault lines, placing hazardous facilities close together, operating close to significant water bodies, and dealing with oil and gas waste ineffectively.

"None of these are appropriately dealt with. Protecting human health and the environment should be the first priority, these are things we can't replace," she said. 

However, Sutherland said the plan proposed that petroleum exploration and production activities would need to get resource consent as a discretionary or non-complying activity. 

This would means the council would consider the appropriateness of each activity on a case by case basis rather than setting a particular distance that must be complied with in all cases, he said.

"Managing these activities this way means that each circumstance can be looked at and carefully controlled so that things like drilling into active fault lines does not occur.

"The key point, that Taranaki Energy Watch again appear to have missed or misunderstood, is that in the proposed plan, drilling and fracking activities won't be considered as hazardous facilities, they will be classed major hazardous facilities.

"As a major hazardous facility they will be required to get resource consent as a discretionary activity, which again enables a case by case assessment."

Roberts, a former Green MP candidate for New Plymouth, said Taranaki Energy Watch was approaching the plan on the assumption that what was agreed to on a district level could affect the rules and regulations made at a national level.

"Taranaki Energy Watch encourage the New Zealand public to submit on the proposed district plan and help see that adequate standards are set for oil and gas, protecting our health and environment and meeting international best practice" she said.

The consultation period continues to October 12. To make a submission visit or visit the council building on Albion St, Hawera.

 - Stuff


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