ORC guarded on drilling

The Otago Regional Council's ability to take a position on oil and gas exploration off Otago's coast may be restricted by having to consider future resource consents related to the activity.

Tomorrow, the council will consider a request by Cr Gerry Eckhoff that it ''endorses [in principle] the exploration for oil and gas off the Otago coast''.

Chief executive Peter Bodeker, in a report to the council, said he had sought a legal opinion on whether it was legal or desirable to take a position on oil and gas exploration.

The legal opinion stated taking a position would not be lawful due to changes made to the Local Government Act purpose statement.

''The opinion states that as the ORC may be required to consider aspects of oil and gas production under a future RMA [Resource Management Act] consideration, taking a position one way or the other may preclude the council or its councillors from being able to take part in future considerations of this matter.''

rebecca.fox@odt.co.nz

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