A REPORT on the “benefits, impacts and risks” of petroleum development across the East Coast does not do what its writers promised, says Gisborne District councillor Manu Caddie.
Minister for Economic Development Steven Joyce and Minister of Energy and Resources Simon Bridges were in Napier today to release the $130,000 East Coast Oil and Gas Development Study.
“The study shows that if significant oil discoveries on the East Coast were found they could become a real game changer for households and businesses in that region and across New Zealand,” Mr Joyce said.
“East Coast communities could enjoy similar benefits to a region like Taranaki, where oil and gas operations contribute $2 billion to New Zealand’s annual GDP and support more than 5000 regional jobs.”
The study was about stimulating discussion between the Government, East Coast councils, the community, iwi and industry about the opportunities if such development was to eventuate, said Mr Bridges.
“It was intended to provide information to all stakeholders in the region but not to make any recommendations,” he said.
“There are areas of the East Coast that have high levels of unemployment and those communities only need to look to the example of Taranaki to see how the industry operating in that region has meant more jobs and higher wages. The report allows the East Coast region to assess whether it wants to take those opportunities for jobs and economic growth.”
The report is the result of a joint study between the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), the eight councils on the East Coast from Gisborne to the Tararua region and regional economic development agency, Business Hawke’s Bay.
“It gives a range of scenarios that might result from any oil and gas exploration,” Mr Bridges said. “And it makes clear that, because any impacts would be region-wide, it makes sense for those discussions to happen at the regional level.”
However, Mr Caddie said the report was “riddled with errors, is clearly biased and provides less than half of the information promised in the Terms of Reference”.
“The study makes optimistic claims about benefits but glosses over the risks and has almost no worthwhile analysis of the economic impacts, let alone social and cultural impacts of this industry should it come to dominate the region,” he said.
He was also not confident in projections about the safety of exploration for oil and gas.
“One of the bitter ironies of this report is that it relies on production scenarios supplied by Apache Corporation, a company that has since pulled out of exploration in the region.
“And while it tries to reassure the public and decision-makers that well integrity is not a risk, just last week Apache had a blow-out at an exploratory well being drilled near New Orleans only 330 metres below the surface.”
Overall, Mr Caddie believed the new report provided a good case for the Government to instead “support industries that produce sustainable, long-term employment with a lower risk to the environment”.
“One of its few redeeming features is that, based on geological analysis and economic modelling, it suggests commercial petroleum development in the region is highly unlikely.”