Local Govt | National News Video | Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Search

 


Oil, gas, fracking and the Regional Council

Oil, gas, fracking and the Regional Council


Thu, Jun 05 2014


In her just released report, Drilling for oil and gas in New Zealand, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment makes crystal clear that regional councils have a vital role to play in protecting environmental and public health in the event of oil and gas exploration and development.


And she comments specifically on oil and gas development in Hawke’s Bay — with its likely use of fracking.


Our Regional Council has already acted, as reported below.


Here’s an overview. You can download the PCE report here.


First of all, while describing the areas where national policy leadership is needed, the Commissioner emphasizes that councils should act proactively in their areas of responsibility, and in this regard she identifies the East Coast of the North island as an “immediate priority”:


“Aligning the environmental regulation of onshore oil and gas by creating clear and consistent national policy is very important, but would of course take some time. This report has identified a number of specific omissions or inadequacies in council plans (particularly regional council plans), and there is no need for councils to wait before addressing these.”


As for the Hawke’s Bay situation, in addition to commending Mayor Yule for initiating the oil and gas symposium conducted last year, the Commissioner notes:


“Hawke’s Bay is, for instance, very different to Taranaki in a number of relevant ways, apart from the difference in the rock formations. The region is drier and very reliant on two key aquifers. There are major known earthquake faults running through Hawke’s Bay, so wells may be more vulnerable to damage from seismic activity, and therefore more likely to leak into groundwater. Increasingly, Hawke’s Bay identifies itself as a premium food and wine region, and there may be conflicts between this and a mushrooming oil and gas industry. Oil and gas wells are not drilled in industrial parks on the outskirts of cities, and landowners cannot legally prevent wells being drilled on their land.”


In general terms, here’s how the Commissioner views the role of regional councils (the report also notes the role territorial authorities must play):


“Regional councils are responsible for managing the impacts of the oil and gas industry on the biophysical environment. Thus, regional councils need to assess potential well locations to prevent them being located in places that might lead to the contamination of surface water or groundwater. Regional councils should also ensure that oil and gas wells are not drilled near major faults, or within (or close to) valuable ecosystems.”


And what is the present regulatory setting in Hawke’s Bay, as embedded in our current resource management plan? It’s not comforting.


Here’s what the Commissioner says:


“The drilling of exploratory oil and gas wells is underway in the East Coast Basin of the North Island, with the aim of being able to extract commercial quantities of ‘unconventional’ oil. Yet in Manawatu, in Gisborne, and in Hawke’s Bay, this has begun without the public or representatives of other sectors having the opportunity to express their concerns because consents are not being publicly notified. And because the drilling of an oil and gas well in these regions is a ‘controlled’ activity, councils cannot decline applications if they meet the conditions in the plan. This means that the ability of councils to consider the location of wells is limited.


In regional plans, the drilling of an oil and gas well should be classified as a ‘discretionary’ activity. This would enable councils to retain the right to decline applications, consider all relevant environmental effects, and impose conditions appropriate to the location. Unless this is done, there is no ability to comply with the International Energy Agency’s Golden Rule – “watch where you drill”. Without the ability to decline applications for drilling, councils may find themselves concerned about the cumulative effects of many wells, but powerless to do anything about it.


In developing their plans, regional councils should also consider whether they need to prohibit drilling for oil and gas in particular areas. One reason for such a prohibition might be the need to protect certain aquifers. The Ruataniwha and Heretaunga aquifers in Hawke’s Bay are not protected in this way, despite popular belief.” [Emphasis added.]


To deal with this situation, the Commissioner recommends that:


Regional councils review the objectives and rules in their plans that are relevant to the oil and gas industry and:


• classify drilling an oil and gas well, fracking, and waste disposal methods as ‘discretionary’ activities;


• identify areas where oil and gas drilling can take place and where it cannot;


• set out core requirements for environmental monitoring;


• require applications for consents for establishing well sites and for drilling wells to be ‘bundled’ together;


• make explicit the circumstances when consents will be publicly notified and when they will not be;


• hold joint hearings with district councils whenever possible; identify and plan for the cumulative effects of an industry that may expand very rapidly.


Finally, how has the HB Regional Council responded to this report?


On Thursday, during FY 2014/15 budget deliberations, I offered the following motion, which was supported by Councillors Dick, Barker, Beaven and Graham and therefore adopted by 5-4 vote:


“Council:


Allocates $200,000 (to be allocated from unspent Open Spaces budgets) to consult with the public and prepare a Plan Change addressing oil and gas development, including management of fracking, in accordance with the recommendations of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.”


In passing this motion, the five supporting councillors have indicated that we expect our Council to address the oil and gas development issue with urgency. You can view the pertinent discussion on the HBRC website (toward the end of 5 June session).


This is not a resolution that approves or disapproves oil and gas development in Hawke’s Bay. It simply puts our Regional Council on a path to engage the public in that debate in the coming financial year and to begin with a precautionary mindset which presumes that if any development is occur, it must be in the context of a robust regulatory regime.

ends


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Parliament Today: State Opening Of Parliament

The House sits at 10.30am today before MPs are summoned to hear the Speech from the Throne in the Legislative Council Chamber.

The speech delivered by the Governor-General on the Government’s behalf outlines its priorities for this Parliament.

After this MPs will return to the House for the presentation of petitions and papers and the introduction of any bills.

The Government has five notices of motion on the Order Paper which can be debated. These relate to relating to the appointment of the Deputy Speaker, Assistant Speakers, the reinstatement of business in a carryover motion and one on “Entities to be deemed public organisations”. More>>

 

Labour: Review Team Named, Leadership Campaign Starts

Labour’s New Zealand Council has appointed Bryan Gould as Convenor of its post-General Election Review. He will be joined on the Review Team by Hon Margaret Wilson, Stacey Morrison and Brian Corban.

ALSO:


Roy Morgan Poll: National Slips, Labour Hits Lows

The first New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll since the NZ Election shows National 43.5% (down 3.54% since the September 20 Election). This isn’t unusual, National support has dropped after each of John Key’s Election victories... However, support for the main opposition Labour Party has crashed to 22.5% (down 2.63% and the lowest support for Labour since the 1914 NZ Election as United Labour). More>>

ALSO:

In On First Round: New Zealand Wins Security Council Seat

Prime Minister John Key has welcomed New Zealand securing a place on the United Nations Security Council for the 2015-16 term. More>>

ALSO:

TPP Leak: Intellectual Property Text Confirms Risk - Jane Kelsey

The US is continuing its assault on generic medicines through numerous proposed changes to patent laws. ‘These are bound to impact on Pharmac if they are accepted’, according to Professor Kelsey... Copyright is another area of ongoing sensitivity... More>>

ALSO:

RMA: Smith Plans Reform To Ease Urban Development

Newly appointed Environment Minister Nick Smith has announced Resource Management Act reform to foster urban development, where high land prices and expensive resource consents are blocking efforts to provide affordable housing. More>>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On New Zealand getting involved (again) in other people's wars

Apparently, the Key government is still pondering how New Zealand will contribute to the fight against Islamic State. Long may it ponder, given the lack of consensus among our allies as to how to fight IS, where to fight it (Syria, Iraq, or both?) and with whose ground troops, pray tell? More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On child poverty, and David Shearer’s latest outburst

The politicisation of (a) the public service and (b) the operations of the Official Information Act have been highlighted by the policy advice package on child poverty that RNZ’s resolute political editor Brent Edwards has finally prised out of the Ministry of Social Development. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On the government’s review of security laws

So the Key government is about to launch a four week review of the ability of our existing legislation to deal with “suspected and returning foreign terrorist fighters, and other violent extremists.”

According to its terms of reference, the review will consider whether the SIS, GCSB and Police are sufficiently able right now to (a) investigate and monitor suspected and returning foreign terrorist fighters… More>>

ALSO:

Labour Davids: Lisa Owen Interviews David Shearer

David Shearer still mulling whether to stand for Labour leadership but says his family doesn’t think it’s a good idea. Declares that it will be “incredibly divisive” for the Labour caucus if David Cunliffe returns to the role of leader. More>>

ALSO:

Taser Use & False Evidence: Timaru Officers "Failed To Follow Good Policing Practice"

The Authority found that even if Mr Reuben’s contact with the officer was deliberate it amounted to only a minor assault. While it found the use of the OC spray was justified, the use of the Taser was not a proportionate response... More>>

ALSO:

Little Surprise: Andrew Little To Contest Labour Leadership

I have decided to contest the Labour Party leadership. There are three immediate issues to deal with: creating greater cohesion across the caucus, rebuilding the relationship between caucus and the Party and, most importantly getting the process under way to listen to the voters who have abandoned us... More>>

ALSO:

Two Fewer Votes In Recount: "Positive Result" - Harawira

When I applied for a recount of the votes from the Tai Tokerau election, I made it clear that this application was not aimed at overturning the election result, but ensuring that all votes cast by Maori were treated with due respect, regardless of whether those votes are for Labour, Maori Party or MANA. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Regional
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news