The Dunedin City Council's support for lengthy public
consultation over exploratory oil and gas drilling has been
criticised by one of its own councillors.
Cr Andrew Whiley took aim at the stance at the end of the
council's draft budget hearing yesterday, saying it amounted
to a ''huge barrier to business''.
Councillors were being asked to sign off a council submission
to the Ministry for the Environment, which was seeking input
on a proposal to make exploratory drilling a non-notified
Under the change, oil companies would still be required to
obtain a marine consent for any exploratory drilling from the
Environmental Protection Agency, which would assess proposals
and could apply conditions, a report by council corporate
policy team leader Maria Ioannou said.
However, the proposed switch from discretionary to
non-notified discretionary status meant consent applications
would in future be considered without the public being
notified, her report said.
The council, in its submission, argued against the change,
saying it would remove the community's ability to have an
input ''at an early stage'' and voice its opinion on
Councillors - led by Jinty MacTavish and Aaron Hawkins -
voted to endorse the submission. Cr MacTavish said the
council should be promoting ''participatory democracy'' where
However, Cr Whiley criticised the move, saying it would allow
up to 140 days for public consultation at a time when
companies were looking only to explore potential prospects.
''I think that's a huge barrier to business and I think we
really need to say let's support business to get started and
let's see if something's there.''
He supported a non-notified process while companies worked to
get a ''foot in the door'', but Cr Neville Peat disagreed,
saying that would exclude public scrutiny of something that
would receive it if it were to occur on land.
Cr David Benson-Pope warned the proposed change was not an
isolated move, but rather part of a co-ordinated attempt to
change environmental protection legislation and erode the
community's ability to have a say.
Cr Lee Vandervis commended the council's submission, but
predicted it would receive little attention.
''It will get filed. It will get taken no notice of at all.''