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Māori Party welcomes report on Drilling for Oil and Gas

MEDIA STATEMENT

04 JUNE 2014

Māori Party welcomes report on Drilling for Oil and Gas in New Zealand: Environmental Oversight and Regulation

The Māori Party welcomes the final report today on the controversial oil and gas extraction method fracking by Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright - Drilling for Oil and Gas in New Zealand: Environmental Oversight and Regulation.

“The Māori Party supports any initiative that maintains the integrity of freshwater and the whenua and we acknowledge the areas of the report that focus on the need for stronger regulation for the industry and to hold decision-makers to account,” says Māori Party Co-Leader Te Ururoa Flavell.

Fracking, which involves injecting water, sand and chemicals at high pressure to fracture rock and release oil and gas deposits, has attracted opposition over fears it could contaminate groundwater.

“In the first report in 2012, Dr Wright noted that fracking could be carried out safely but rules were too light-handed and their complexities could lead to problems. She also warned that fracking could expand New Zealand's fossil fuel industry, which would increase problems with waste.”

“Obviously there are a number of points raised within this latest report that are of concern to the Māori Party such as the cumulative effects of drilling on the landscape, review of regional plans to better deal with the expansion of the industry, who pays when things go wrong, the disposal of waste produced as a result of fracking, lack of rights for landowners, and the integrity of the well long after the drilling is over,” says Mr Flavell.

The transportation of toxic fracking fluid, which is a mixture of hydrocarbons and a cocktail of chemicals, is currently trucked from Gisborne and disposed of in Taranaki and this is a concern that should be addressed immediately.

“If oil companies are going to drill in Aotearoa, more responsible ways of dealing with the toxic waste must be found rather than trucking it across the country to another region.”

“Water contamination is another real threat, especially where the integrity of the well is at stake either during the installation and operation of the well or once the well is decommissioned - which may leak waste into the aquifers. The recently released best-practice guidelines by the Government for fracking warned that fracking fluids needed to be controlled so that they did not contaminate drinking water, and the Māori Party will be watching this very closely.”

“The Commissioner has noted the practice of ‘land farming’ where paddocks are spread with oil and gas waste and then cows were able to graze on these paddocks. There is nothing in the Government guidelines that would stop land farming from occurring here but the Māori Party would certainly question whether this practice was appropriate or safe as we do not see current practices dealing with heavy metals, limits or monitoring.”

“From what we can see, oil drilling can occur now with very little change to regional plans and with little or no public consultation. Drilling has the potential to snowball should oil be found and we are not sure decision-makers are prepared for the rapid expansion of the industry or what this could mean for communities who have to deal with the effects of oil drilling. While the Government guidelines clarify the responsibilities of councils from initial investigation and planning to consenting, there should still be room for public consultation which can be currently avoided by decision-makers,” says Mr Flavell.

ENDS


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