Lobby group Don't Frack the Bay wants a hold on oil and gas exploration in Hawke's Bay following news another North American company has been granted a permit to look at the East Coast Basin of New Zealand.
Marauder Resource East Coast is a new player in the oil and gas industry based in Calgary. It was awarded an exploration licence for a 965 square kilometre area in rural Hastings district, in a joint venture with Canadian Overseas Petroleum.
A map of the licence area showed it sits between two others being considered for exploration by fellow Canadian TAG Oil, one near Gisborne, the other in central and southern Hawke's Bay, both of which had met opposition from environmental groups.
Don't Frack The Bay spokesperson Pauline Elliot said she hoped no exploration work would start until the issues raised by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment's interim report on hydraulic fracturing was addressed.
The commissioner, Jan Wright, spent more than six months reviewing how the oil and gas industry operated in New Zealand, including time in Hawke's Bay to canvass community opinion.
"She made particular reference to the seismic nature of the East Coast which is greater than in other areas. We need to look at the requirements to have safe, skilled, trained operators working in the industry and until that is all investigated I think we would like to see Marauder not go direct to the Hawke's Bay Regional Council and ask for resource consent.
Hastings District Council member Tania Kerr's family farms land at Te Pohue, neighbouring the proposed Marauder exploration site. She said there was a big gap between achieving a permit for exploration and being granted a resource consent for producing oil and gas.
Cr Kerr said there would always need to be a balance of risks and rewards which included considering the investment return, increased employment, more income and industry growth versus effects on the community, environment and on the roading network. The views of individual property owner versus "community desires" also needed to be considered.
"The biggest reward would come from local people being up-skilled and employed in a new industry in Hawke's Bay.
"Farmers will give a wide range of thoughts. Some will welcome explorers on to land, others may shut gates and not allow access."
Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule said he did not have a problem with Marauder's permit to explore as long as it wasn't near the aquifer, or underground water source.
"The issue I do have is that we have to make sure the roading network in some of those more remote areas are able to withstand the type of activity which could be generated. If there are revenue streams from this flowing to Government, some of it should be coming back to us if we have to upgrade those roads."
Marauder could not be contacted for comment.
Oil drill support
Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce supports oil and gas exploration in the region, but only if it complies with the environmental standards expected from the industry.
The chamber said it supported Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Jan Wrights's interim report into oil development and the controversial hydraulic fracturing technique also known as "fracking", released recently.
Chamber president Katja Williams said the report was balanced and thoughtful in regard to fracking.
"The chamber supports the development of an oil industry, provided that it meets relevant environmental standards and the report acknowledges the importance of this requirement.
"It is also imperative that existing business and industries are not compromised by exploration."
Ms Williams said according to the Ministry of Economic Development website, there were no exploration permits lodged near the plains aquifer.
The chamber viewed the report as critical given the potential of an East Coast oil industry where the rock is shale and fracking was likely.
"It's a positive sign that this option remains in the commissioner's purview and now we look forward to the rule under which this can occur."
Ms Williams said the introduction of an oil industry could be a game changer for the Hawke's Bay economy, bringing significant new job opportunities.
"Oil exploration should be given a chance to prove its economic benefits to our region whilst complying with the environmental framework."