Vibrant or stagnant: energy is the difference

Last updated 08:24 14/12/2012

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OPINION: After it was announced this week that 10 new oil and gas permits had been awarded by the Government, including seven in Taranaki, anti- fracking campaigner Sarah Roberts lamented that the expansion was being made in the wake of a report questioning the monitoring of the industry.

Yesterday and today we have looked at the immediate impacts of the industry's plans - and it amounts to a vital and ongoing investment into Taranaki.

The latest development is a bottom-line impact report by Venture Taranaki which illustrates the value of hydraulic fracturing - fracking - over not fracking.

Tuesday's news was announced with enthusiasm by Minister of Energy and Resources Phil Heatley, whose support of fracking is at odds with the Green Party. He said companies were committed to spending $82 million on exploration for oil and gas around the country and that if all initial work was successful, it could lead to spending of a further $776m within five years.

The announcement of leases was another sign that the oil and gas industry is continuing to gear up to do more at a time when many industries are nervous about the future. It is, though, reliant to a major degree on being permitted to frack.

On Wednesday at the annual breakfast function for businesses hosted by Methanex, one observer suggested that without the energy industry's presence, some New Plymouth streets might have tumbleweeds blowing down them. That is an wild exaggeration, but it does underline the fact that dairy alone is not enough to ensure the city's high quality of life.

The advantage of living on a goldmine of gas and oil is that our community is home and work to highly skilled people and it benefits from their spending and the spending of the companies.

As we have reported before, oil is this country's fourth largest export commodity, with an annual value of about $2.2 billion, and the industry employs more than 3700 people and indirectly provides work for almost 4000 more, mostly in Taranaki.

Funding from those companies also ensures the future of many organisations and events which make Taranaki what it is. Having the industry here is the difference between being vibrant and stagnant.

The Greens want a moratorium on fracking, and opponents have used the report by Parliamentary Commissioner Jan Wright to back their calls. She has concerns at the oversight and regulation of the industry, but has not called for it to be banned. She says she has not reached "a firm conclusion" fracking has caused no problems in Taranaki. She has not found any "big red flags" either.

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Sarah Roberts and colleagues, such as South Taranaki district councillor Michael Self, play a vital role in raising awareness of energy issues and practices.

They may not welcome an expansion for the industry, but the news of more leases, underscored by the potential value oil and gas will bring can only be viewed as excellent news for Taranaki.

- Taranaki Daily News

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