Tikorangi – the new Texas?

Next door - not quite the Tikorangi locals signed up for when they settled here

Next door - not quite the Tikorangi locals signed up for when they settled here

I can’t honestly say we are thrilled to learn of the deal between Todd Energy and Methanex which will see up to 25 wells drilled to frack the sub strata of the area where we live. Tikorangi isn’t very big and the first three wells are next door to us, with more scheduled to follow on the same site.

But we are pretty much alone in that. Industry thinks it is wonderful. Most Taranaki locals think it is wonderful because it brings jobs and money. The mayor thinks it’s wonderful. Somewhat disturbingly, the CEO of the regional council thinks it is wonderful (I say disturbingly because that is the body tasked with regulating and monitoring the industry’s activities and it is clear that they are very kindly disposed to the key players). The editor of the local paper thinks it is wonderful – which indicates that the paper will maintain its position of being the PR mouthpiece for the energy industry.

The bottom line is that the oil and gas industry may well be good for the national economy. It is certainly very good for the regional economy and means we have a superior class of cafe and restaurant in New Plymouth.

An increasingly common sight in our landscape

An increasingly common sight in our landscape

But there ain’t nuthin’ good for the locals who live by the sites. Nothing. At. All. They are ugly, industrial sites in the middle of rolling, green countryside. Drilling is noisy. The increase in traffic, especially heavy transport, has been major over the years. Flaring is abominable – flaring being the exercise of cleaning up the wells and testing the flows by igniting the gas. Considering there is nothing good for the environment in drilling either, I am somewhat surprised that the industry continues to get away with flaring. Don’t even try and tell me that anything I can do to reduce carbon emissions will help the planet – not when I live in an area where flaring takes place.

Over the years we have seen changes and some for the better. The first well drilled next door to us, maybe three years ago, was flared for many weeks on end. It was so bright, we could see the glow as we drove out of New Plymouth, 25km away. It lit our house all night. But worse was the noise – the constant, unabated, low grade roar which meant that living here was like living on the flight path to Heathrow, but this was 24/7. When you have lived for years in the relative silence and total darkness of the country, flaring has a huge impact on quality of life.

Flaring was greatly reduced for the second well on the same site and I am hopeful that the third currently being drilled (we can hear the rig grinding away in the quiet of the night and the morn), may see flaring reduced further.

Less high handed bullying from the companies is another change. We are lucky. We are dealing with Todd Energy who appear to be one of the better companies to deal with. I had thought the divisive bully-boy tactics of the petrochemical cowboys were in the past now (though only the relatively recent past) until I saw the media statements coming from another company on another site.

But we have also seen changes in the way the councils handle consents and the winding back on the definitions of affected parties. It is very difficult to convince councils that you are an affected party now and if you acquiesce and sign the agreement for one well, essentially you have signed away all rights to object in the future.

I have met with successive mayors and councils over about fifteen years, pleading with them to be more proactive in planning to mitigate the negative effects. They are terribly concerned and sympathetic and nothing happens. Planning, such as it is, remains completely reactive.

I have tried to get District Council to require, as part of the consents process, that sites be screened from public view by planting. I think they should only be visible from the air. High security industrial sites have no place in a rural landscape. Nothing has happened.

Today’s newspaper, where both District and Regional Council hail all the positive benefits of the economic boom gives me no confidence at all that any negative aspects will be even be acknowledged, let alone addressed.

I try not to look but in this case, it is both sides of the road. They should be screened from view.

I try not to look but in this case, it is both sides of the road. They should be screened from view.

So the gentle area where we live, a soft rural landscape with reasonably high density population and a solid core of very longstanding families, both Maori and Pakeha, will just roll with the changes as we have for the past decades. We will be the guinea pigs for fracking here. We will let you know if it does cause earthquakes or contaminate our water supplies. The ground below us is about to be fracked in every direction. We will adapt to the increase in traffic though we probably all hope that the ridiculous practice of laying gas pipelines down our roads and verges won’t happen again (how to cause maximum disruption to the largest number possible and completely without apology!) We will grit our teeth and only complain when the noise incidents get beyond the pale. And some of us will wait.

I think it likely that in a decade or two, all the viable reserves of oil and gas beneath us will be gone. The companies will pull out. The multitudes of small industrial sites I try not to look at will be reclaimed by long grass and then by other vegetation. Processing plants will be mothballed. The traffic will reduce and peace will return. I have to take the long view because the juggernaut that is the petrochemical industry rolls on unchecked in Taranaki in the short term.

The adjacent house is, I understand, still occupied by a very long term Tikorangi resident

The adjacent house is, I understand, still occupied by a very long term Tikorangi resident

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6 thoughts on “Tikorangi – the new Texas?

  1. narf77

    Hi Abbie…I am so sorry that you are stuck with this sort of thing. We are fighting (along with most of the Tamar Valley) to stop a massive Pulp Mill going in right on the river upstream from Launceston Tasmania. We have gone through the very same thing that you have in being constantly bewildered by council, mayoral, town, industry and government support for this project despite it being more than obvious that it is going to ruin the landscape and environment around here. The project was corruptly initiated (the owner of the company at the time owned most of Northern Tasmania and both the Labour and Liberal governments here) and it has taken everything that the people of the valley can throw at this behemoth to try to stop it running rampant on this beautiful place. New Zealand is now seen as little China and it appears that your most gorgeous and unique island is for sale to the highest bidder. I feel for you in so many ways, being a horticulturalist myself gives me an understanding for your amazing garden and many thanks for your wonderful blog (only found because I was looking for Camellia reticulata). You can only hope that the gas seam is miniscule and that it runs out soon and you get left in peace.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      No such luck, I am afraid. There is enough known gas here to keep the industry going for another two to three decades. I am just grateful that we have a garden with great shelter and enough land to be able to look inwards, rather than striving for views and vistas beyond. The awful thing is that the majority think that this is progress and therefore good. I don’t envy you your pulp mill either. I guess it is larger but confined to one site whereas we are destined for multiple sites in this area – Hobson’s choice, really.

      Thanks for your comments on my blog.

      1. narf77

        At the moment we have a gorgeous view of the river Tamar and just around the corner they are proposing to build the pulp mill which will ultimately kill just about everything on the river. We are still fighting it as the company is still trying to raise the funds to initiate the project and so there is still hope that they might go broke. Isn’t it sad to have to wish that on a company? These days it’s one of the only options to save our valley. I really am so sorry about your coal seam gas. Is there no way that everyone living there can get together and start some rumblings about what happens to the water? Has anyone contacted
        Erin Brokavich (probably spelt wrong) about it? She is really interested in helping communities who are being ignored because of profit mongers who could care less about their health and wellbeing. If this stinking pulp mill goes in, they have even managed to negate anyone complaining about it for 2 years… how corrupt is that? Changing laws to look after yourself. Anyway, if they do bring it in we will be able to deal with Ms Brockovich apparently as she has helped people sue their governments and companies before when health and the environment are affected. It is a really sad state of affairs when a government will turn a blind eye to environmental degradation when everyone is well aware of just how precious our natural resources are in the name of profit. All of our thoughts are with you guys.

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