About 40 test holes being drilled around the country for oil
and gas in the year ahead raises the question of the effects
of exploration outside the traditional region of Taranaki.
The annual petroleum conference in Wellington was hosted by
the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New
Zealand (Pepanz), a small number of protesters being kept at
bay outside the conference venue.
The rules covering offshore oil and gas exploration between
12 nautical miles offshore and the 200 nautical mile limit of
the exclusive economic zone are still at a formative stage.
Issues include unhindered industry access to prospective
areas, which could be expensive to ensure, and addressing the
concerns of communities and environmentalists over
transparency and the environment.
Environment Minister Amy Adams is now taking submissions on
proposals to be implemented by June next year by the
Environmental Protection Authority, which include the highly
contentious proposal for exploratory test drilling offshore
to be non-notified.
One panel discussion focused on the regions other than
Taranaki, including the complex arena of ''politics versus
Resource Management Act versus mayoral obligations versus
While Taranaki's regulatory regime for onshore drilling leads
the way - more than half the 1050 test holes drilled around
the countryare in or off Taranaki - most other authorities
have yet to grapple with applications.
For the Taranaki Regional Council ''well integrity'' is the
key element, and it has published a draft guide on consents,
technical data and scientific investigations, much of which
has been peer reviewed.
Environmental Protection Authority chairwoman Kerry
Prendergast said while the Government had made it clear it
wanted growth in the sector, the EPA was to be ''at arm's
length and independent'' and ''cannot be overridden by
ministers''. ''We don't hold the hand of the industry; our
expectations of the industry are clear. They must be
committed to best practice,'' she said.
She was ''acutely aware'' the public and environmentalists
expected a ''high level of accountability'' and ''capability
and balance'' in administering consent applications offshore.
''It is complex and difficult getting information out in a
non-political way,'' Ms Prendergast said in an interview.
Discretionary activities and oil and gas production would
have public notification, but Ms Adams would shortly complete
and release a decision from the present submission process,
governing whether the EPA made exploration consents
non-notifiable, Ms Prendergast said.