Keep oil and gas in the frame

By Mark Story

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Finance Minister Bill English says the government has been "beefing up" its research into the viability of fracking in Hawke's Bay.

The Deputy Prime Minister yesterday stopped off at Hawke's Bay Today's offices to talk oil and gas exploration, rugby and other issues facing the province, just two weeks out from delivering the 2012 Budget.

Mr English said while he hadn't seen any specific economic payoffs for fracking in the Hawke's Bay region, the government had taken a proactive approach to the "legitimate concerns".

"We've taken a general approach that if you want more jobs and higher incomes you have to do some things - you can't just sit there doing nothing," Mr English said.

"We have the opportunity in New Zealand for oil and gas exploration because there's evidence we've actually got a reasonable amount of it. In fact oil and gold is New Zealand's top export to Australia.

"We agree it'll need to be done with reasonable environmental constraints ...

but we're pretty interested in maintaining momentum because if you want more exports and more jobs, then you can't just rely on agriculture and horticulture here. You need to grow other stuff as well."

The minister also said he believed both ends of Hawke's Bay's income spectrum could take heart in the Budget on May 24.

"We try to maintain balance between protecting the most vulnerable and at the same time encouraging better incentives for working, saving and investment.

"For businesses like Heinz-Watties here in Hawke's Bay for instance, it's about giving them more certainty, more confidence to spend money to employ more people.

"And on the other hand we've maintained the income support. We've kept the minimum wage up and kept the value of incomes up."

Despite descending on Hurricanes territory for the interview, the proud Southlander picked the Highlanders to win 23-17 in the teams' Super Rugby clash in Dunedin tonight.

"I just saw the Hurricanes at Wellington airport - they all looked a bit puny to me actually."

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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