The Dunedin City Council fractured into two camps before
narrowly deciding to join calls for a moratorium on hydraulic
fracturing, or "fracking", yesterday.
Councillors at yesterday's planning and environment committee
meeting voted 7-6 to support calls for a moratorium on the
controversial oil and gas extraction process.
A moratorium would result in a freeze on new fracking in New
Zealand until the Parliamentary Commissioner for the
Environment, Dr Jan Wright, completed an investigation into
the practice later this year.
The decision by councillors meant Dunedin would add its voice
to calls from the Christchurch City Council and four regional
and district councils covering Hawkes Bay, Waimakariri,
Kaikoura and Selwyn.
A report by council sustainability adviser Maria Ioannou to
yesterday's meeting said fracking was used in some parts of
New Zealand, including Taranaki and Waikato, but not in
The practice involves drilling deep wells and injecting
high-pressure quantities of water, fine sediment - usually
sand - and chemicals into rock, causing them to crack open
and release hydrocarbons stored within.
Use of the practice in the United States had soared since
2005, and spread to other countries including New Zealand,
but had since been banned in countries including France,
Bulgaria and South Africa, the report said.
Environmentalists worried about the potential for toxic
fluids, or the hydrocarbons, to escape and contaminate
underground water aquifers.
Speaking yesterday, Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said he supported
calls for a moratorium, given the geological volatility of
Shell representatives, on a recent trip to Dunedin, had
acknowledged the potential to use fracking effectively in
some parts of the world, but also the risks associated with
the practice in other areas.
"I think a precautionary approach is the only sensible one,"
Cr Jinty MacTavish said residents in Taranaki, where the
technique was already used, were among those expressing
"fairly significant concerns", and Dunedin would be right to
join calls for a moratorium.
The call would mean more than just supporting a short-term
moratorium, she believed.
"It's an indication to the Government that this is something
that we as a community have some concerns about and would
like them to take seriously.
"We value our water resources very highly here."
Cr Richard Thomson said there were sufficient concerns about
fracking to justify the council taking a "precautionary
approach", despite some "extreme" claims on both sides of the
His views also won support from deputy mayor Chris Staynes
and Cr Teresa Stevenson, while Cr Kate Wilson said the effort
invested in extracting dwindling fossil fuels should instead
be used to develop renewable energy sources.
Other councillors were not convinced, with Cr John Bezett
arguing a moratorium would not happen anyway, while Cr Lee
Vandervis worried a moratorium would "kill stone dead" the
use of fracking in areas in which it had been successful for