Following on from my post on Tikorangi Lost – how a little community is being sacrificed to the petrochemical dollar, I suggest the following:
1) Stop hiding behind legislation. If the ability for Councils to take a lead role in planning and managing development is not possible under existing legislation and regulation, then admit publicly that is the case and immediately approach central Government seeking change. It appears that the current regulations may be inadequate to meet such major development.
2) Set a moratorium on new consents and major variations to existing consents while an overall plan is put in place and pending the final report from the Commissioner for the Environment.
3) Develop a plan for the district involving local residents as well as the companies.
4) Review the extent to which the use of non-notified consents and the virtual elimination of “affected party status” has led to a culture of exclusion bordering on secrecy between companies and councils whereby local residents only find out what is happening after the consents have been approved.
5) Appoint a residents’ advocate.
6) Give residents a voice, the chance to give a report card, victim impact report even, on what the personal impact has been. Stop ignoring them.
7) Initiate a study into levels of stress and anxiety in local residents as a result of the rapid petrochemical development.
8) Create a single point of contact at Council.
9) Impose a 70km speed limit throughout areas of Tikorangi affected by petrochem dev – ie from Princess St through Ngatimaru Rd to Kowhai A site, Inland North Rd as far as Otaraoa Rd, Otaraoa Rd as far inland as Mckee, Tikorangi Rd from the intersection with Otaraoa Rd to Mangahewa E site.
10) Cease issuing permits for well sites in excess of what a site is suitable for and in excess of what companies have actually planned. This is effectively an open mandate for them to do whatever they want in the future.
11) Do not allow existing use as a reason for granting major variations, as was done with the increase in site area for Mangahewa C, setting a dangerous precedent. If a company applies for use which is beyond the capacity of their site at the time, that should be the company’s problem and not a reason to allow them to hugely expand the site.
12) Conduct independent traffic counts including specific attention to heavy loads and hazardous loads.
13) Define community consultation. A letter box drop is not community consultation. Nor is dropping a large bundle of papers on a local resident or organisation without explanation or interpretation. Indeed, a meeting where a company presents its plans to local residents is not community consultation either. It is merely communicating decisions already made and is therefore community liaison.
14) As the intensity of development escalates, the chances of a major incident greatly increase. This could be an on-site incident such as a well blow out or major malfunction, or a traffic accident involving heavy vehicles, often carrying dangerous goods. Many locals would like advice as to emergency actions in the event of such an incident. Put simply, which way should we drive to get out?
15) Actively discourage Greymouth’s pepper-potting of well sites. Do not permit them to establish separate well sites a few hundred metres apart. Todd have chosen to establish fewer sites and directionally drill. While the impact on neighbours is therefore much higher, the total number of people adversely affected is much lower. Allowing companies to pepper pot sites impacts negatively on many more people and on the environment.
16) Take best practice from one company as the required benchmark for other companies. Todd Energy have made major improvements to flaring, reducing the length of time flaring took place on their third well on Mangahewa C site, to under 30 hours, if my memory is correct. This is a massive change from the months of flaring previously and the improvement for locals was major as a result. If Todd can do it, so can other companies. Similarly, Todd maintains extremely high standards of community liaison and acts on complaints. This does not appear to be true with all companies.
17) Acknowledge that in the countryside, the norm is silence at night. Setting allowable limits for industrial noise, pays no heed to the severe degradation of quality of life when low grade industrial noise permeates the environment 24 hours a day. The same goes for light. The norm in the country is darkness at night. The well sites are very brightly lit.
18) Look at the whole picture, not just the well sites. The construction is a major intrusion and the infrastructure seems to have bypassed Councils’ notice altogether – the pipelines, the roadworks, the power supplies, the use of helicopters, the seismic surveys. There is layer upon layer.
19) Stop consents being merely a checklist of boxes to be ticked. Look at applications in the context of what is already happening, what the cumulative effect will be and how it all fits with a development plan drawn up for the area.
20) Undertake regular Assessments of Environmental Effects and formal reviews of resource consents. Recognise that when companies pursue a very active programme of encouraging residents to complain direct to them, that it means they can fudge the extent of resident complaints. Indeed, it appears to have been so effective that it can entirely escape New Plymouth District Council’s attention. Council then acts on the unverified assumption that there are no significant problems.
21) Seek external verification of company reports on environmental effects. Do not rely solely on information supplied by the companies and “visual inspections”.
22) Change the way complaints are recorded at Council. Complaints from Tikorangi residents about noise, light, traffic, the state of the roads, littering and assorted other presenting issues are more likely to be about petrochemical development than about anything else, yet they appear to be recorded under a host of other categories.
23) Monitor closely what is happening to property values and the length of time it takes to sell property in Tikorangi. These are another indicator of the health and desirability of the area.
24) Require that sites have screen planting put in as part of the initial site preparation. These industrial sites are an eyesore in a rural area and detract hugely from the visual quality of the environment. Within two or three years of initial site works, that planting should screen sites from view. Take the ability to screen from view into account when approving a site. In other words, hide them. Screen planting may also absorb some of the noise.
25) Recognise that the precedent set by allowing Greymouth Petroleum to position an 8 well site (Kowhai B) immediately on the boundary of the Foreman farm and about 300 metres from Graham Foreman’s home, without his agreement, has set a new bar for permissable intrusion. Many locals now fear that they could suddenly find a rig on their boundary, too.
26) Write a code of conduct for petrochemical companies, even if it has to be voluntary.
27) Independently verify claims made by companies and recognise that the consultants employed by those companies work for them. They are not independent consultants and their advice needs to be considered in that context.
In short, do some actual planning for once.
These, these types of measures are what I have been seeking for over fifteen years since I first sat in Mayor Claire Stewart’s office with the then so-called “planners”. It appears that nothing has ever been done. Councils have abdicated any role or responsibility for planning and leave it to the petrochemical companies.
Tikorangi and other similar areas are paying an unacceptably high price for Councils’ willingness to pander to the powerful petrochemical companies and the petrochemical dollar. The problems are only going to escalate with rampant and uncontrolled growth of the industry.