No applications to undertake hydraulic fracking have been
received by the Otago Regional Council, but its policy on
whether an application is public or non-notified will be done
case by case.
While fracking has been done more than 40 times in New
Zealand in past decades, with little evidence of harm to the
environment, the next company requiring resource consent
applications to frack may come under intense environmental
and public scrutiny.
While local councils around the country have been under
pressure from ratepayers and environmentalists to make a
public stand on fracking policies, it is regional and some
district councils which will consider and issue consents for
The Otago Regional Council (ORC) undertook hydrofracking in
the Ida Valley last year, but its search to try to produce
better yields from a groundwater bore relied simply on high
pressure water to fracture the rock and did not include the
contentious use of toxic proppants.
Proppant chemicals can make up 3%-5% of an injected mixture
of sand and chemicals used to fill gaps in the fractured rock
to allow gas or oil to flow freely, but some chemicals can be
Otago Regional Council director resource management Selva
Selvarajah said the ORC had not received any consent
applications for fracking activities around Otago.
''If we do receive any applications in future, we will deal
with any such applications cautiously,'' Dr Selvarajah said.
Fracking is used to boost production, not as an exploration
tool, in the search for oil and gas. Around Otago and
Southland companies have found deposits of methane gas and
shale oil of uncertain commercial viability, which could
produce higher yields with fracking. Dr Selvarajah said while
there were no specific policies or rules provided for
fracking activities in the ORC's regional plans, he was
confident the provisions to protect ground water quality in
the ORC's water plan ''can be applied under the
He expected any fracking applications would be ''technically
complex'', but the ORC could use in-house hydrogeologists or
any other suitably qualified and experienced external experts
to assess such applications.
''Notification or non-notification processes will be
determined on a case-by-case basis,'' Dr Selvarajah said.
He said if adverse effects on the environment were considered
to be ''less than minor'' the applications would be processed
as non-notified, but if effects were considered more than
minor, they would be publicly notified.
Environmentalists have kept West Coast coking coal developer
Bathurst Resources wrapped up in High Court, Court of Appeal
and Environment Court procedures, delaying mine development,
for almost a year.