Greens back fracking concerns

By Corey Charlton

The Green Party has welcomed the Hawke's Bay Regional Council's request for a study on fracking to be undertaken by the Parliamentary Commission for the Environment.

Hawke's Bay is the first East Coast regional council facing exploratory drilling consents to request the Parliamentary Commission for a study, although three district councils - Selwyn, Christchurch and Kaikoura - have called for a moratorium.

The request was supported by Green Party MP Gareth Hughes, who said fracking was a controversial technique which many Kiwis were concerned about.

"We really welcome the decision by the council," he said.

"I think this shows that it is not an extreme or fringe issue. The thing is, we still don't have much information."

Evidence of consent breaches and pollution from fracking activities in Taranaki suggested more studies were needed, he said.

The Green Party was advocating a moratorium on fracking while a commission study was undertaken, for which they have organised a petition.

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright could not comment as to what effect the council's request would have in her decision to undertake a full investigation into the effects of fracking.

There was, however, a scoping study already underway, the results of which would determine whether or not the commission would undertake a full investigation.

She said she might have a better idea whether it would go ahead by the middle of the year.

"When that is completed I'll make a decision as to whether to proceed with the full investigation, or not."

The study was looking at both the environmental effects of fracking, as well as how adequate the regulatory framework was.

She would not reveal what weight the request from the council would have on her decision.

"I get lots of requests," she said. "A lot have been coming in on this, so it's one more request - albeit from a pretty important body - but it's up to me.

"But I'll be making a judgement based on an informed view."

Despite the concerns of Mr Hughes, Minister of Energy and Resources Phil Heatley said he believed fracking was adequately regulated, and the government would not pursue its own enquiry.

"Unlike some other countries, New Zealand has a robust regulatory framework on managing the effects of fracking," he said. "Any request to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment is a matter for the commissioner to consider. The Government has ruled out an inquiry."

Gisborne District Councillor Manu Caddie has put forth a similar motion for his district, which called for a Royal Commission to undertake a study. This has been left to lie on the table, he said, as it was a potentially costly exercise, but he did say he thought the Gisborne council may follow Hawke's Bay's lead.

The Gisborne Council is a unitary body, so it is responsible for both district and regional council roles.

Apache regulatory affairs advisor Alex Ferguson has said the company would have no problem providing information for an independent inquiry.



- Hawkes Bay Today

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