NEIGHBOURS of the property where a test site for oil is planned say they have never been approached by any oil companies.
This was despite a resource consent application by TAG Oil and Apache Corporation, for the preparation of a test site, that said discussions had been held with neighbours.
Te Karaka farmers Andrew and Jacqui Kirk are the closest neighbours to the 0.9 hectare area of land where site establishment work will be started on pastoral hill country near Kanakanaia Road, 12km northwest of Te Karaka.
“No one has talked to us whatsoever,” said Mr Kirk.
Another neighbour, Warren Mulligan, said he had not been contacted either.
They attended two public meetings yesterday that provided information on hydraulic fracturing (fracking). About 50 people were at the lunchtime meeting at the council chambers and 30 at the Te Karaka bowling club last night.
Community members were both for and against oil exploration — what they were all united on was the need for more information.
Fracking is a technique used to retrieve hard-to-reach oil and gas by fracturing rock — in this case it would be around 1500m down — by blasting water, sand and chemicals at high speed down a steel-encased well.
The first application to Gisborne District Council, received last week, does not involve deep-well drilling or fracking but is for a 10-metre well to support a possible future well that would be a lot deeper. That well would be used to confirm details of oil reserves.
One Te Karaka resident said he was all for oil exploration and, if necessary, fracking — especially if it brought money into the district.
A show of hands showed the majority of people at both meetings wanted future consents for work by oil companies to be publicly notified.
GDC environment and policy group manager Hans van Kregten said he was not there as an advocate for the oil industry and was sitting in the middle of the fracking debate. His role was to facilitate the resource consent process with the Resource Management Act.
Mr van Kregten said the council wanted to be transparent and proactive when it came to fracking, due to public interest in the method. This was why the first application by the oil companies was made public last Saturday, even though the effects on neighbours were not seen to be more than minor.
But Mr Kirk queried how 60 extra truck movements a day on Kanakanaia Road could be classed as minor. The trucks would be carting metal to the area for an access track to the test well.
He didn’t think the road could cope.
Another Te Karaka resident asked Mr van Kregten whether council staff were geared up to say yes or no to “such an important decision”.
“This is serious stuff that you guys are deciding and there’s so much information out there.”
If there was an application for fracking, Mr van Kregten said the council would hire independent external experts to guide them. They would not wait for an interim report on the method by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, due in October. There was not a moratorium on fracking in New Zealand, he said.
“If an application arrives, we must process it.”
Addressing concerns that oil companies kept secret some chemicals used when fracking, Mr van Kregten said the council would require that the fluids used be made available to them.
He also confirmed that the council would be collecting ground-based data, including testing the water quality, before any fracking activity started.
‘Communities can take action’
Porangahau resident Haana Wilcox spoke at both oil exploration meetings here yesterday about her family’s experience with TAG Oil and Apache Corporation in Hawke’s Bay.
In November last year, oil company representatives approached her 82-year-old mother at their family farm, near Waipukurau, with documents to sign that would give them access to their land for a seismic survey.
They were the only neighbours who declined, and the project did not go ahead.
Ms Wilcox said neighbours later said they wished they had known it was OK to say no.
“Talking to your neighbours is a good thing. Everyone was scared of what the others would think and didn’t get together as a community to discuss it. We need to look at oil exploration from a number of different perspectives.”
People often said to her that the oil companies were going to do it anyway, so there was no point in objecting.
But Ms Wilcox said communities could take action even if they believed the odds were against them, and it was never too late to reverse a decision.
She reminded people that 25 years ago, New Zealanders got together and decided they wanted to be nuclear free. New Zealand was also a country where women and Maori used to be forbidden to vote.
“Keep the dialogue going. I encourage you to talk among yourselves about what you think and feel so that you can choose your own destinies.”
Ms Wilcox said it was important to look at oil exploration from all world views, Maori, scientific, environmental and economic.
Then it was up to each person to decide where they stood on the fracking matter, based on their own values.