Controversy over fracking for oil and gas around the
country has erupted again following the Parliamentary
Commissioner for the Environment's call for the Government to
overhaul regulations, to better manage environmental risks.
A complete regulatory overhaul may appease some
environmentalists, but many wanted a complete moratorium or
The exploration sector is willing to discuss regulatory
changes, while highlighting latest technology and ''world
class standards'' already in use.
Commissioner Dr Jan Wright said an example of ''immediate
priority'' for regulatory overhaul would be the North
Island's east coast, from Gisborne to Wairarapa.
In those areas were shale oil deposits of potentially
millions of barrels, which would require fracking to release
the resource, Dr Wright said in her second fracking report,
Labour responded, calling for the Government to implement Dr
Wright's recommendations and outline a national policy
Forest and Bird claimed national and local government
regulations were ''woefully inadequate'', calling for a
Greenpeace labelled the report ''yet another indictment of
the government's cowboy approach'', reiterating its call for
an outright fracking ban.
Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is a production technique to
force water and chemicals into underground rock formations to
fracture them and release either trapped oil or gas.
Environmentalists are concerned water aquifers and
surrounding land could become contaminated, especially from
the chemicals used or spills.
Following her initial fracking report in late 2012, Dr Wright
released the 100-page ''Drilling for oil and gas in New
Zealand'' report yesterday.
Dr Wright found regulation in New Zealand was not adequate
for managing the environmental risks of oil and gas drilling,
especially if the industry expanded beyond Taranaki.
Exploration wells are being drilled into the shale deposits
of the East Coast Basin, near Dannevirke, Gisborne and soon
in Hawkes Bay, Dr Wright said.
''The shale in this part of the country has been compared
with the Bakken and Eagle Ford rock formations in the United
States, where the number of wells has proliferated in just a
few years,'' she said.
Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New
Zealand spokeswoman Janet Carson supported looking at how the
regulations governing exploration and fracking could be
''The report makes recommendations around well location and
integrity, the possibility of leaks or spills, and waste
''Although current practices are of a high standard, we want
to reassure communities that, as the industry grows, the
right checks and balances are in place to ensure we are ahead
of the game in protecting our workers and the environment,''
she said in a statement.
In New Zealand there have been more than 50 fracking
instances in Taranaki and Waikato since 1989, and four in
Otago and Southland, the latter to test rock pressure, for
water, and two unsuccessful attempts to free up coal seam gas
The Otago Regional Council, which would consider and
administer any fracking applications, confirmed yesterday
there had been no applications lodged.
Dr Wright called on regional councils to revise their
regulations, saying ''Most council plans do not even
distinguish between drilling for water and drilling for oil
She said the East Coast Basin differed from Taranaki in
several relevant ways.
Apart from the difference in rock formations, the region was
drier, very reliant on key aquifers and with major known
earthquake faults''Wells would be more vulnerable to damage
from seismic activity and therefore more likely to leak into
''Increasingly, the region identifies itself as a producer of
premium food, and there would be conflicts between this and a
mushrooming oil and gas industry,'' Dr Wright said.
Labour's Environment spokeswoman Moana Mackey said Dr
Wright's report concluded that while oil and gas drilling
could be done safely, the oversight and regulation of the
activity was inadequate, inconsistently applied and had not
kept pace with the rapid advances in industry and technology.
''It is important we modernise our regulation of this
industry to protect our environment, water aquifers and other
industries that may be incompatible with a rapid local
expansion in exploration,'' Ms Mackey said.
Forest and Bird advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell said there
needed to be a moratorium on new oil and gas exploration ''at
the very least until adequate national regulations exist''.
''This report calls into serious question the Government's
sale of the rights to frack across millions of hectares of
the conservation estate, and on private land, without proper
environmental safeguards,'' Mr Hackwell said.
Greenpeace New Zealand Programme Director Carmen Gravatt said
the Government was pursuing ''its agenda to frack, drill and
mine at any cost''.
''It's clear that regulations around fracking are totally
inadequate. There must be an immediate ban on this industry
in New Zealand,'' she said.
Dr Wright's 2012 interim fracking report found no reason for
a New Zealand-wide moratorium on fracking, but emphasised the
need for risk management, and found concern enough to warrant
further investigation, and the second report.