Council's caution on fracking hailed

By Lawrence Gullery

Lobby group Don't Frack The Bay has welcomed news the Hastings District Council is taking a "precautionary approach" to hydraulic fracturing and hopes other Hawke's Bay councils take a similar position.

Group spokeswoman Pauline Elliot said the Hastings council's decision, made as part of its long-term plan, showed it had put protecting the water supply under the Heretaunga Plains as its top priority.

The council said it would not ban fracking but would send a signal that it wanted to protect the plains, which were the lifeblood of the district.

It would welcome research on oil and gas exploration that did not have an impact on the environment.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule has said any benefits from oil and gas exploration must be balanced against the impacts of the environment.

"Despite many claims to the contrary, there is simply not enough knowledge about the medium and longer-term effects of hydraulic fracturing," Ms Elliot said.

"Until there is absolute certainty around safe methods of extraction, the oil and gas reportedly in vast amounts is not going anywhere."

She said while the council did not have a lead role in the resource consent process to approve or decline underground exploration, its position in ensuring protection of the environment showed leadership and understanding.

Don't Frack The Bay made a presentation to the Hastings council last week and plans to appear before other Hawke's Bay councils this month as each works through its long-term plan.

"Submissions are expected to highlight the risk of contamination of water, soil and air, and the potential costs and negative impacts on sustaining industries of farming, food production and processing, exporting and tourism.

"Oil exploration permits have been allocated for Hawke's Bay without community consultation and with little understanding of the impacts."

Don't Frack The Bay would call on council leaders to hold a public forum once the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has completed a report on the controversial oil and gas drilling method, Ms Elliot said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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