Anti-frackers tour Taranaki well sites
Concerns over pollution airedHELEN HARVEY
About 40 people, many of them from outside the region, took a tiki tour of Taranaki oil and gas sites on Saturday.
The Taranaki Dirty As Fracking Tour began in the Ngaere Hall at 10am with a short seminar by Ngaere resident Sarah Roberts and then a bus, a minibus, a motorhome, two motorcyclists and a few cars set out on the tour which finished back at Ngaere late in the afternoon.
Fracking is a drilling process that involves pumping chemicals into wells to force gas or oil out. Opponents say it pollutes the surroundings and can contaminate groundwater.
South Taranaki district councillor Michael Self caught the bus and kept passengers informed about the sites they were passing as well as keeping them entertained with stories of local identities and history.
The entourage was accompanied by a security van from Kaponga around the Kapuni well sites, until the tour headed off toward Hollard Gardens for a lunch break.
However, Shell Todd Oil Services spokeswoman Shona Geary poured oil on any conspiracy theories, saying a guard in a marked van always patroled the area, because the well sites were so spread out.
STOS was relaxed about the tour, she said.
"We have quite frequently said we are open to discuss fracking with whoever wants to find out about it."
About 20 people came from the East Coast, Hawke's Bay and Dannevirke for the bus trip.
East Coast visitor Terry Miringaorangi said oil and gas companies had gone to his small settlement on East Cape and they were told any waste would be trucked to Taranaki.
"That is insulting to Ngati Porou. People in Taranaki should be angry."
People from one area had no right to dump waste on to another hapu or iwi, he said.
Tikorangi resident Fiona Clark said she had been living with the effects of the oil industry every day and had gone on the tour to see what was happening in South Taranaki.
Before the tour began, Ms Roberts handed out a report she had put together that was critical of the Taranaki Regional Council's regulating of the oil and gas industry.
An area of concern was the council's monitoring of sites and she said sometimes the council did only "visual monitoring".
Taranaki Regional Council director of environment quality Gary Bedford said it was not a matter of just relying on visual inspections.
"We visit every exploration site every week. That is probably the most intensive scrutiny of any activity by any agency acting under any piece of legislation in New Zealand."
Inspections were at the heart of the process, he said. By the time everything had been checked, it was possible to tell how well the operator was performing environmentally.
"You don't have to take a sample in order to ensure there is good environmental compliance."
This year the council had taken 49 water samples from sites that were being or had recently been fracked and would test them for a total of 2920 different parameters, including copper and methane.
Climate Justice Taranaki member Urs Signer said the idea for the bus trip came a few months ago at a meeting in Wellington.
"People were keen to come to Taranaki to experience what it is like to live amongst the oil and gas industry."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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