Kia Ora all, I’m Paul Bailey, Green Party spokesperson for Hawkes Bay and I’ve been thinking about the PCE’s interim report on fracking.
Dr Wright comes to the conclusion that the environmental risks associated with fracking can be managed effectively. However she puts a huge rider on this conclusion by stating “at this stage I cannot be confident that operational best practices are actually being implemented and enforced in this country.”
This brings into question all of the statements made by this government that fracking has been undertaken in Taranaki safely. If everything has been done honky dory and above board in the past, why does Dr Wright put such a strong rider on her conclusion?
On a local level, the interim reports gives a lot of food for thought for the HBRC. Thay have been fond of describing Taranaki as using best practice. In his 17th October report on staff visits to Taranaki Iain Maxwell (head of resource management) stated that “Staff believe that TRC operate a strong and robust process around the regulation of the oil and gas industry in their region”. One wonders what Dr Wright saw in Taranaki that our HBRC staff didn’t? It also seems to me that we should not be cutting and pasting regulations from Taranaki but developing them specifically for Hawkes Bay conditions.
Dr Wright also made three interim findings about government oversight and regulation.
The first of these is that the system is complex and fragmented. She said that unravelling the labyrinthine roles of different central government agencies, and the relevant responsibilities of regional and local government was a major exercise in itself. Such complexity works against open transparent government, and important issues can fall between the cracks. Personally I believe the oil companies like it this way as it leaves holes in the regulatory oversight big enough to drive a truck through.
The second is that regulation may not be fit-for-purpose and that companies are perhaps being trusted rather too much to do ‘the right thing’. After all, what do you think happened at Pike River?
The third is that a ‘social licence’ for fracking has yet to be earned by the oil companies. They just don’t get that a substantial proportion of the population don’t trust them. Instead of trying to communicate they have a raft of dirty tactics that they have used throughout the world, over and over again. Why offer to pay for and arrange for regulators to visit Canada? Why not disclose exactly what’s in those chemicals? Why specifically ask for resource consents to be non-notified? This lack of social licence to operate really gets me, as it represents the oil companies inability to act with integrity. Setting taps on fire wasn’t my key moment in Gaslands, it was the farmer who said “these are grown men who just lie to you”.
Finally if you are a land owner you can lock the gates and refuse to sign access agreements. The oil companies could take you to court to enforce their rights under the Crown Minerals Act, but how do you think that would look in court to see a multinational corporation trampling over an individual farmers property rights? A great way to demonstrate you have a social licence to operate.
I am calling for a moratorium on fracking in the Hawkes Bay pending the release of the PCE’s final report (after all what harm is there in going slow and safe? the oil and gas is not going anywhere!)
Thanks for listening, I’m Paul Bailey, Green Party Spokesperson for Hawkes Bay