Hastings mayor aims high to secure oil, gas speakers

By Lawrence Gullery

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright may be among the speakers at a forum in Hastings on oil and gas exploration on the East Coast and Hawke's Bay regions.

Hastings District Council voted this week to support mayor Lawrence Yule's proposal to host the forum, which will be held in a similar manner to the one on the GE debate in 2012.

"The next step is to form a list of speakers for the forum so it can be held within the next six weeks to three months.

"The biggest challenge at the moment is that we are being swamped with names from various sides of this debate, about who should be there and I think this forum is going to be bigger than the one we had on GE."

Mr Yule said some likely speakers could include Ms Wright, who was looking into the rules and regulations of oil drilling and fracking. There would also be representatives of the oil and gas companies working in New Zealand as well as people with experience in the industry from Taranaki.

"We will also have people opposed to fracking and some from the Hawke's Bay Regional Council talking about the consenting process.

"We need to find a balanced range of speakers."

There would be a question and answer component of the forum. The meeting was likely to be held in the Hawke's Bay Opera House theatre in Hastings, to accommodate the expected large number of people.

"This is a sensitive issue, probably more than the GE topic.

"I suspect this is something we don't have a lot of time on because already there have been exploratory licences granted.

"But it is only exploratory at this stage and I don't think a large part of the community understands what that means and what the process is."

Mr Yule said the drilling permits had not moved from "exploratory to extraction rights" and so it was important to understand the difference and the possible next steps.

"It is something that I don't understand and it would be helpful to have more information and understanding around it."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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