Fracking risk unacceptable in North, say local MPs

By Lindy Laird

David Clendon
David Clendon

Two Northland MPs say the Commissioner for the Environment's finding that oil and gas extraction is environmentally risky is more reason for the industry to steer clear of Northland.

Kerikeri-based Northland Green MP David Clendon said international companies would have to comply with environmental laws but the laws in themselves could not protect against disaster.

"You can't mitigate against the risk. If something goes wrong, it tends to go very, very wrong," Mr Clendon said.

Mana party leader and Te Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira said the Government's "woefully inadequate" regulations were partly why Te Tai Tokerau people already strongly opposed the industry operating in or offshore from Northland.

"There are much safer and sustainable ways to build jobs and raise incomes in the North," Mr Harawira said.

In her 2012 report into onshore drilling and fracking, released last week, independent Environment Commissioner Jan Wright voiced concerns about fracking in particular and said in other countries regulators were "scrambling to catch up" with its speedy expansion.

Dr Wright said, that although the impacts could be minimised if regulations were toughened, she did not support the expansion of the industry.

She said there were deficiencies in how land-based fracking was managed in Taranaki, the only region it is used in New Zealand.

Dr Wright called for "fresh thinking", pointing out the East Coast Basin (incorporating Dannevirke, Gisborne and Hawke's Bay), pegged for explorative drilling and fracking, was drier and very reliant on key aquifers.

The Green Party has called on the Government to take a safety-first approach and specifically halt fracking.

While there are no plans for land-based fracking or exploration in Northland, international oil company Statoil is preparing to carry out electronic tests in the Reinga Basin.

Mr Clendon said he believed any oil or gas discovery and extraction would bring few rewards for Northland.

"We're told the offshore drilling will generate local employment and wealth. I simply don't believe it," he said.

Environment Minister Amy Adams and Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges called the report "a useful contribution to the discussion on how best to manage the environmental effects of onshore petroleum development".

The ministers said they would "analyse and consider the commissioner's recommendations".

- Northern Advocate

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