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New Zealand Oil and Gas, which has been testing for hydrocarbons off the coast of Otago, plans on establishing a regional community panel to develop a ''deeper relationship'', chief executive Andrew Knight says.
Mr Knight was in Dunedin this week with company permit manager Nick Cozens and community engagement manager Cameron Madgwick to meet with people and discuss the latest news from the company's completed 3D seismic testing off the coast between Dunedin and Oamaru.
Mr Knight said the company was trying to build a long-term relationship with the community and was investing the time to do that.
''We didn't want to come in and just drill and go away. We will be talking to various people on establishing a community panel on a regional basis.''
It was understandable some people in the community were anxious about the things the company was doing and if there were things they did not understand, the community could perceive it was being shut out, he said.
The company's values, which were also his personal values, meant the company wanted to be open with the community.
''The industry has a history of hiding behind a hedge. You will never build trust in the community by hiding behind a hedge.''
Asked about the composition of the panel, Mr Knight said it would include an ''interesting mix'' with some who would be opposed to the drilling along with people who were looking for business and economic opportunities and growth.
Admitting some people would expect the feedback from the panel to be dumped if it did not agree with the company's thinking, Mr Knight assured the Otago Daily Times the feedback would be carefully considered.
The southern regional panel was the first in what could be a series of panels around the country.
''We are new to this area of Otago and South Canterbury so this is why this is the first.''
The panel would be set up in about six months, which was an ambitious goal but one NZOG thought possible to meet, he said.