Oil could add billions to Hawke's Bay

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 An "oil rush" could provide economic benefits worth billions here for up to 50 years in the best-case scenario if oil is struck, Gisborne District Council has been told.

Progress on a feasibility study of the economic impact of oil and gas exploration in the regions was outlined to the council by Michael Bassett-Foss from economic development agency Business Hawke's Bay.

Eight regional authorities, including Gisborne District Council and Hawke's Bay Regional Council, are involved in the oil and gas feasibility study covering the economic impact against environmental risk of petroleum exploration in the region.

"We don't know how much oil and gas there is, which is why they want to drill exploration wells, but we do know that particular rock formations here have got people really excited about the potential to have oil and gas in there," said Mr Bassett-Foss.

There was still a chance they would find nothing viable but it was still wise to prepare for an "oil rush" - a productive well could be active for between 15 and 50 years in the best-case scenario, he said.

From an initial cost of up to $100 million for exploration, the economic input over the 50 years could rise as high as $255 billion if there was full-scale production.

He did not think there would be any employment opportunities for local people during the exploration phase, because companies usually brought in their own skilled workers for that.

But there could be work opportunities if the exploration was successful, he said.

Deputy Mayor Nona Aston wanted to know if there was any talk about apprenticeships to start training locals to work on the rig.

Mr Bassett-Foss said he had not heard anything but it would be premature to train people before they knew if there were going to be jobs for them.

Manu Caddie said there was a moral issue with fossil fuel mining, especially with climate change staring us in the face.

"Just because we can do it, should we do it or should we be putting energy into focusing on renewable energy?"

Graeme Thomson said a joint approach from the regions was needed to reinforce the burden to ratepayers and the impact on local infrastructure.

A consultation document on the Government's proposed onshore and offshore blocks for competitive tender for petroleum exploration permits in 2012 was presented to the council.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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