29 Mar 2012

Taranaki hapu calls for fracking moratorium

6:53 pm on 29 March 2012

A spokesperson for a south Taranaki hapu is calling for a moratorium on fracking until more is known about its impact on the environment.

Daisy Nobel is a spokesperson for the Kanihi Umutahi hapu, one of four hapu considering a new resource application to mine on their land.

Ms Nobel says many hapu members are against fracking because they do not know much about it.

She says she would prefer a moratorium be placed on fracking until everyone is comfortable about it and understands what it does and does not do to the environment.

Ms Nobel hopes the review will give clarity for hapu and iwi who may have to consider applications for fracking in other regions in the future.

The Taranaki Regional Council, however, says it is confident the drilling technique being used has no serious consequences for the environment.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Jan Wright, is investigating whether hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas - known as fracking - triggers earthquakes as international studies suggest. She is expected to release her findings later this year.

Fracking is banned in a number of countries due to the environmental risk, including groundwater contamination, quakes and mud volcanoes.

The method has been used in Taranaki for the past 20 years. The regional council's director of environment quality says recent studies carried out for the council have found there is no reason to stop the activity.

However, Gary Bedford says if the commission does find there are risks caused by fracking, the council would look long and hard at the findings.

Mr Bedford says a number of new resource consents for fracking in Taranaki are being processed.

Shell Todd Oil Services has been employing the technique in Taranaki for 10 years. General manager Rob Jager says high safety standards in New Zealand mean serious environmental impacts are unlikely.

"We're confident, and we have been confident for a long time, that when done properly, the fracking is safe. So I expect that the outcome will be a confirmation of that."

GNS Science is confident the independent inquiry will not find a link between fracking and quakes in Taranaki .

Last year, the head of Petroleum Geosciences at GNS, Rosemary Quinn, was commissioned to study fracking in the region and says there is no direct correlation between the process and quakes in New Zealand.

"Hydraulic fracturing always causes some movement in the ground because it generates cracks and fractures - but it very, very rarely generates damaging seismic activity, and that's the thing that I think people need to keep in mind.

"Very rarely it generates a magnitude 2 event, maybe a 2.3 - and that's not from fracturing itself, that's more because there's been a fault nearby that's been affected."

Environmental group hopes for ban

A Taranaki environmental group hopes the independent inquiry will lead to a ban on the practice in New Zealand.

Climate Action Taranaki says the investigation is long overdue.

Spokesperson Teresa Goodin says studies on fracking in the region so far have not been independent enough, but she hopes the commissioner's inquiry will confirm the environmental risks.

Ms Goodin says the "dirty business" of fracking has been swept under the carpet for years and there has been contamination of groundwater and mining sites.

Taranaki resident Sarah Roberts believes fracking is causing serious environmental impacts and says a moratorium should be put in place until the investigation findings are revealed.