Report: Effects of Drilling Nothing Compared with Dairy Industry
The oil and gas industry's effect on the Taranaki rural landscape is nothing compared with what has already been caused by the dairy industry, a new report claims.
But its author, Stratford District Council's director of community and environmental services Mike Avery, says this is not a criticism of the dairy industry.
"It is simply pointing out that whenever any activity takes place in the rural landscape, there is an effect. The trick is to make sure these effects are properly managed," he said.
Mr Avery's report is an update for his council on the potential effects of the current rapid expansion of oil exploration and production facilities in central Taranaki. It has been prepared at a time when there is growing public concern over this.
Last week public meetings have been held at Tikorangi, New Plymouth and Ngaere where residents have complained about the effects the exploration activity is having on their lives.
A lot of drilling is planned for Stratford district. At January this year there were more than 140 wells planned for two to three years at 14 different well sites, in addition to the more than 50 wells already consented at various sites.
All this planned activity has already sparked criticism, with prominent activist Sarah Roberts quoted early this year as saying the face of Taranaki will be unrecognisable if the number of wells continues to grow like this.
But the SDC report rubbishes this claim.
"Although the activity level is certainly increasing, there is nothing to suggest that this is unsustainable in terms of maintaining the rural amenity of the district," Mr Avery said.
"It is certain that the change in the rural landscape due to oil and gas activity is negligible compared to the change brought about by the dairy industry."
In fact things are improving, the report claims.
The effects of wellsite activity have reduced markedly during the past 10 to 20 years, particularly in regard to both noise and, more recently, flaring.
Consent conditions are now largely standardised to ensure that the standards of Stratford's District Plan for the rural zone are maintained despite the increased level of activity.
"The council is well placed to ensure that oil exploration is not freeloading in regard to any effects on the district's infrastructure," says Mr Avery in the report.
Ms Roberts savaged the report.
"Come on, there's no doubt that if 140 wells are going to be drilled in the next two to three years, the face of the district will change. I doubt the public will be pleased," she said.
But Mr Avery's comments were supported by newly appointed Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges, who last week toured Taranaki energy sites and visited the Taranaki Regional Council.
"During the visit I was impressed at a number of levels," he said.
"When I went to a couple of exploration and production sites it was immediately clear that health and safety and good environmental protection are at the forefront. The industry isn't paying lip service to this - it is at the forefront of everything they do.
"And then I visited the regional council I was also very impressed with what they are doing. I'm confident the correct monitoring and regulations are in place."
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