Oral Submission to TDC Annual Plan

The following is my verbal submission to Tararua District Councils 2013 annual plan

Kia Ora, my name is Paul Bailey. I currently reside in Napier but was brought up in Woodville. As an East Coast resident I have an interest in what goes on in the Tararua District. I have had various careers during my life At one pojnt I was the BNZ’s Rural Business Manger for CHB, I was a student of mathematics, and was involved in the debt collection industry for some years including running my own debt collection agency.

I am sure you are familiar with the arguments for and against hydraulic fracturing so I will not repeat them now.

What I do wish to comment on however, are three separate reports which have been produced with respect to the oil & gas industry. These are the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment’s March 2013 report “East Coast Oil & Gas Development Study”, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s November 2012 report “Evaluating the environmental impacts of fracking in New Zealand”, and Control Risks Group Ltd’s 2013 report “The Global Anti Fracking Movement”.

MBIES’s study also states “East Coast Communities will want to make choices about the extent and pace of development and how a range of issues will be managed” I ask when are we going to be given the opportunity to make an informed choice about “the extent and pace of development”? This is not a choice that should be left in the hands of our public servants, or even our yourselves, given that you are lacking in a mandate to make a choice with such far reaching consequences.  Ask yourselves, was the oil & gas industry even considered an election issue in 2010?

The PCE’s report does not give the big tick to fracking, no matter what the government may say.

The PCE qualified her much misquoted statement by saying, and I quote “But at this stage I cannot be confident that operational best practices are actually being implemented and enforced in this country.”

 I cannot be confident that operational best practices are actually being implemented and enforced in this country.  What do you think this means?

The PCE’ also stated that the (regulatory) system is complex and fragmented and that unravelling the labyrinthine roles of different central government agencies, and the relevant responsibilities of regional and local government, has been a major exercise in itself. Such complexity works against open transparent government, and important issues can fall between the cracks.

So if the PCE is having difficulty working out how the regulations work, and lacks confidence in what has happened in the past, what hope have you got in managing the oil and gas industry satisfactorily given the current state of regulations around the industry?

The PCE also states “that a ‘social licence’ for fracking has yet to be earned; for example, communication and engagement with local communities has been mixed” End quote.

A social licence for fracking has yet to be earned. What do you think this means? Well, let me offer some explanation.

Whilst I imagine you are familiar with the reports produced by MBIE & the PCE I doubt if you are familiar with Control Risks Group Ltd’s report “The Global Anti Fracking Movement”. This report was commissioned by the oil & gas industry. It’s an easy read and I recommend it to you all.

It concludes that “First and foremost, the industry needs to acknowledge the legitimacy of local grievances. Denying the agency of local communities by blaming ‘fear’ and ‘hysteria’ is winning the industry – often an ‘outsider’ – few friends. Acknowledging grievances would begin to repair its crippling trust deficit with local communities. Movements towards greater transparency and voluntary disclosure, however grudging, are a positive step in this direction and accommodate a major grievance shared by anti-fracking movements worldwide. Meaningful consultations with local stakeholders, instead of

di-dac-tic ‘information sessions’ to market the presumed benefits of drilling, would help to identify potential points of tension to be addressed through both outreach and grievance mechanisms.”

 Does this sound like common sense to you? It certainly resonated with me. Remember these are not my words but the words of the industry itself.

I appreciate that the TDC is essentially caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand you are directed by central government to manage the Resource Management Act yet on the other hand there is major public opposition to hydraulic fracturing. The TDC cannot operate outside the bounds dictated by the RMA, which is why you have no legal grounds to do something such as declare Tararua a frack free zone.

However as councilors you need to consider the long term social and environmental implications of the introduction of the oil & gas industry to the Tararua Region, and not just the supposed economic benefits. Already the oil & gas industry is dividing Dannevirke. When was the last time you had 100 citizens marching down Main Street protesting about an issue such as this?

I believe that it would be a failure of leadership on your part to dismiss the legitimate grievances of your citizens, who have concerns about this industry, as scaremongering. The eyes of many New Zealanders are watching what happens here in the Tararua very closely. If you wish to continue as being seen as country bumpkins, then that is your prerogative. But I think you are far better than that, and I look forward to more rational comments coming from the Tararua District Councils elected representatives. I believe that we are within our rights to be skeptical about anything stated as fact by the oil & gas industry and I implore you to be the same as well.

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