Otago regional councillor Gerrard Eckhoff has not ruled
out further pushes to get the council to debate the issues
around oil and gas exploration, after failing at the first
Cr Eckhoff asked the council to support, in principle, oil
and gas exploration off Otago's coast.
''I feel it is important, as a representatives of this
region, that we at least discuss it as a council,'' he said
at yesterday's meeting.
However, legal advice from the council's solicitor was it
would be unlawful to support the motion, due to changes in
the Local Government Act purpose statement.
After taking advice from former national politicians and
speaking to Local Government New Zealand, Cr Eckhoff said the
legal opinion was just that, an opinion. It ''simply must not
stand'' and he suggested an independent Queen's Counsel
should look at the issue.
''Any development is not likely to be for three to five years
or longer, so why is this council taking an overly cautious
approach?''Most of his fellow councillors, except Cr Sam
Neill who supported the motion, believed the council could
not ignore the legal opinion even if they personally
supported oil and gas exploration.
''This motion is not about individual views, it is about the
council view and its legal statutory regulations,'' Cr Bryan
Cr Doug Brown believed it would be ''foolhardy'' for the
council to take a position, given it could compromise its
future Resource Management Act responsibilities.
Cr Eckhoff said in his right of reply regional council voters
should feel disenfranchised by the lack of debate on the
''To say I'm disappointed is a gross understatement. It is
what a representative democracy is all about.''
He would look at pursuing a judicial review of the decision,
although he admitted it was not the type of decision normally
reviewed in that way.
''I for one will continue to speak out on behalf of our
Council chairman Stephen Woodhead did not take part in the
discussion during the meeting.
After the meeting, he said that was because he saw himself as
the ''gatekeeper'' of the council's regulatory process, so he
was not prepared to express an opinion either way.
The council could be required to consider consent
applications for shore-based infrastructure associated with
the projects if they progressed.
''The ORC takes a great deal of pride and effort in ensuring
its processes are robust.''
His recent opinion piece in the Otago Daily Times on
oil and gas exploration did not express an opinion for or
against, Mr Woodhead said.
As the exploration was outside the 12-mile limit, it was
beyond the regional council's control. The permits for
exploration were governed by national legislation.
• Anadarko and Origin Energy have completed the first step in
drilling the exploratory well off the Otago coast. The well
was spudded on Tuesday, Anadarko New Zealand manager Alan
The process began on Monday afternoon and was completed about
1pm on Tuesday.