$2b boost from oil, gas industry: Report

By Patrick O'Sullivan

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East Coast communities will be boosted by $2 billion annually if an oil and gas industry similar to Taranaki's is developed, a new report says.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges released the The East Coast Oil and Gas Development Study yesterday in Napier.

The report said it was written to provide "informed dialogue" on economic potential and looked at the benefits, impacts and risks of petroleum development, using Taranaki as a model, and said up to 2,300 jobs could be created with disposable incomes rising up to 39 per cent.

Mr Joyce said Taranaki had about half the unemployment rate of the East Coast.

To a question on Maori opposition to petroleum exploration north of Hawke's Bay, Mr Joyce said they should rethink their conditional approach to development.

"If you are staring down the barrel in your region of 9 per cent unemployment, which they are, then actually they probably owe it to themselves, to their families and to their people to consider carefully the opportunities that present themselves.

"There is a strong link between economic opportunities and jobs," he said.

Risks around practises such as fracking had to be managed, he said.

"If you turn your back on every risk then you would have a very small economy indeed," the minister said.

Before the announcement the ministers met with council representatives and iwi representatives along with local MPs Chris Tremain and Craig Foss.

The study was funded by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment with support from local authorities on the East Coast from Tararua to Gisborne, co-ordinated through Business Hawke's Bay.

Gisborne District Councillor Manu Caddie said the $130,000 report was "clearly biased" and provided less than half of the information promised.

"The study makes some optimistic claims about benefits but glosses over the risks and has almost no worthwhile analysis of the economic impacts let alone social and cultural impacts of this industry should it come to dominate the region" he said.

Hawkes Bay Regional Councillor Liz Remmerswaal said the study had selectively quoted the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment's interim report on fracking.

Both councillors said the government and councils should commit similar funds to a study on sustainable energy opportunities for the region.

Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce president Katja Williams said the report highlighted the economic benefits whilst being mindful of the region's environmental framework.

"The Chamber supports the development of an oil industry, provided that it meets all the relevant environmental standards," she said.

"Now we can enter a more informed discussion around the possibilities of an oil industry."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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