Hon Dr Nick Smith, MP Nelson
I THANK the many Gisborne people who have positively responded to my article on fracking and energy development in New Zealand. It was long overdue for some balance and science to be injected into the hysteria and fear being spread by the Greens. I welcome the opportunity to further comment on the key points in the debate.
It is progress that the Greens now concede that the risk of fracking inducing earthquakes is not their primary concern. This contradicts earlier statements by Green spokespeople who cynically exploited the Christchurch earthquake tragedy to drive their anti-fracking campaign. Christchurch City Council quoted earthquakes as the major reason when adopting their fracking ban. This is ill-informed and illogical. Dropping multiple-story buildings with explosives has a greater risk of causing minor earthquakes. Piling work causes similar tremors and shaking. The risk of minor tremors from fracking is insignificant compared to the 18,000 naturally-occurring earthquakes over magnitude 2.5 that occur each year.
The Greens have also made contradictory statements over the comparison between the geothermal and petroleum industries. In one statement they say the industries are “completely different’’ then they state “certain similarities exist’’ and next they admit fracking has been used in the geothermal industry as well as petroleum industry.
The development of geothermal and gas wells is similar in that both fracture rocks, trigger small earthquakes, release greenhouse gases and cause contamination of water. Far more earthquakes have been caused by the development of geothermal wells in New Zealand. It is also true that far more pollutants have been released into fresh water bodies by the geothermal industry than by the gas industry. It is simplistic and wrong for the Greens to characterise the geothermal industry as all green and good, and the gas industry as all brown and bad. We should apply consistent regulations to both industries to manage their environmental effects based on sound science.
The Greens are also being misleading in claiming that fracking has been approved for 4.4 million hectares of land. Exploration permits have been issued for this area but the drilling of any wells and any fracking requires resource consents. These resource consents are considered by independent environmental officials based on the effects of the activities proposed. Only a very few consents have been issued for a small area.
It is also misleading for the Greens to claim a moratorium is needed because there will be a massive expansion of fracking before the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment completes her work. Her report is due by December and there is no massive expansion planned in the next four months. Nor should we be fooled into thinking the Greens will be satisfied by the commisioner’s response. Gareth Hughes is on record as saying: “We don’t ever want to see fracking here.’’ He wants a permanent ban, regardless of the commissioner’s findings.
The Green Party does the environmental cause a disservice with their exaggeration and extreme stances. We do need to sensibly regulate all industries in Gisborne, including any gas industry, to ensure the region’s great lifestyle and clean environment is protected. But we also need to take the economic opportunities to create jobs and higher incomes from the use of the region’s natural resources so people will choose a future here rather than in Australia.