Plan change on cards to prohibit drilling

By Victoria White

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Councillor Peter Beaven said a huge amount of community angst had been generated by water bottling consents being granted without public notification. PHOTO/FILE
Councillor Peter Beaven said a huge amount of community angst had been generated by water bottling consents being granted without public notification. PHOTO/FILE

Drilling for oil and gas near aquifers in Hawke's Bay could be banned.

The Hawke's Bay Regional Council requested the Regional Planning Committee consider proposing a plan change to prohibit the drilling for oil and gas within the region's productive aquifers and surface water bodies at its first ordinary meeting.

Although there was no desire for drilling in the region due to downturn in the sector, council group manager strategic development James Palmer said there was still a public call for drilling to be banned ahead of fresh water change processes.

The inclusion of surface water bodies in a prohibition was seen to be "uncontroversial", but a ban on drilling in aquifer recharge zones and catchments would equate to a region wide prohibition, and would be challenging to pursue through the Regional Resource Management Plan.

Chairman Rex Graham said he was happy this request would go to the committee, adding he would debate this issue "on the fundamental principal that we do not do this in Hawke's Bay.

We grow things in Hawke's Bay and that doesn't include oil".

If it goes ahead any plan change process is expected to take six to nine months.

Yesterday council also asked staff to prepare a report on options for policy development for water bottling resource consents. In particular, this related to the potential to publically notify any new water bottling consent applications.

HBRC Group Manager Resource Management Iain Maxwell said staff were seeking advice on the legalities around publically notifying water bottling consents and will report back to the Council at its meeting on November 30.

Earlier this year, council had asked staff to explore a better process which enabled the public to be more aware of these consents.

Councillor Peter Bevan said this had been generated by a huge amount of community angst that nine bottling consents "involving something like 5 million Cu m of water" had been granted without public notification.

"The public quite understandably feel they have a view about these matters and wish to express these views but are denied the opportunity to do so because none of these applications to date have been publically notified," he said.

The TANK (Tutaekuri, Ahuriri, Ngaruroro and Karamu catchments) collaborative group is commissioning a report on the potential growth and demand for water bottling in the region. The TANK Group is also considering any new rules that need to apply to water bottling consents, including priority relative to other users.

Currently, council staff were also undertaking work around feedlots.

Concern was raised around feedlots when aerial photos revealed how many had been operating near waterways.

Yesterday Mr Maxwell said as there had been conflicting views on what was required by a feedlot operator, staff were working with a contractor to develop a tool to assist land owners who require consents for feedlots and looking to provide more guidance around expected standards for feedlot operations.

Mr Graham said while it would be true some farmers were "doing a beautiful job", there was a lot of suspicion around feedlots.

Council wanted to be proactive on the matter, to ensure feedlots were properly constructed, and dealt properly with waste.

"We don't want random feedlots popping up as they all of a sudden did and none of us knew about it."

The council has asked staff to prepare a report on the options for policy development to clarify the consent and compliance requirements in relation to feedlots.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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