Oil industry not wanted by some

By Victoria White

Councillor Tom Belford.
Councillor Tom Belford.

Regional councillors spoke out against oil and gas development in Hawke's Bay yesterday.

A motion to adopt principles regarding potential development was lost at a Hawke's Bay regional planning committee meeting.

In June the council moved that an assessment of a plan change was not necessary until the Regional Resource Management Plan 2020/21 review, so the principles were developed to "augment the council's existing tools", not replace or override them, for managing the effects of actual, and potential oil and gas exploration in the region.

Yesterday a number of amendments to the wording of the nine principles was suggested.

Among other amendments, Councillor Tom Belford suggested adding a preamble, which stated council did not wish to be an "enabler" of oil and gas development anywhere in Hawke's Bay, and mentioned its development being "forced upon the region by government policy".

He said the principles had been written presumptively that the council had decided they wanted such development in the region.

"I think we have not had that debate in this region, we have slid into basically adopting or adapting ourselves to a government policy on this issue," he said.

"This is the time to draw the line. To take these principles ... and simply endorse them is for us to simply roll on with existing policy."

He was supported by councillor Rex Graham, and Allen Smith of Te Tira Whakaemi o Te Wairoa.

Mr Graham said it was time for the council to be leaders, and "to send the Government, and the oil companies, and even our own community a message that we don't want to be in this business".

The paper presented to the committee also stated the principles held no statutory weight under law, but signalled to the community, and the oil and gas industry the council's orientation toward managing such exploration and production.

Councillor Christine Scott said she could not support Mr Belford's amendment as it was "by and large ultra vires".

"I think that's really re-election words and nothing more," she said.

The intention of the principles was "to strengthen the stringency of the council's hand" if they received applications for such activity.

However she said, "the state of the industry at the moment, there's just nothing in sight and it's likely we will have reached a plan change again before there's any interest in this area".

The idea Government was forcing the policy on the council was denied, and Chairman Fenton Wilson spoke against suggestions of prohibiting activity.

Group Manager Strategic Planning James Palmer said as the principles did not get enough support to get across the line, council would revert back to existing rules.

He said putting the principles aside, the council did have the Local Government Act & Resource Management Act which ensured council was consulting the community and affected people and fully assessing all aspects of any consent application.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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