Tikorangi Lost – how a little community is being sacrificed to the petrochemical dollar

Ours is a typical rural community in North Taranaki, about 5km off the state highway. We named our garden for the area. There are two main(ish) roads here and about five side roads. The country store has long since closed but we have a pretty little church which is still in use.
We have a country school which has been here for 146 years. It currently has a roll of about 140 though that has been inflated by children from the town of Waitara 6km away.
We have tennis courts, a rugby club and a well kept community hall. The original dairy factory is still here. It has Historic Places A classification and is a home these days.
We even have an active playcentre in an historic building (the original school). It too has Historic Places A classification.

Typical farmland. Shame this is the site for Mangahewa E

Typical farmland. Shame this is the site for Mangahewa E

Many of the original settler families are still living here. Jury, Sarten, Soffe, Foreman and Lye are common surnames. Many trace their antecedents to the first boats of immigrants that landed in New Plymouth in 1841. This is an area even richer in Maori history and families like the O’Carrolls and the Baileys can trace their whakapapa back much further. The area is peppered with waahi tapu (sacred sites).

It is predominantly farming, dairy at that, only one modern industrial farm. The rest are generally in family hands often down the generations. There is an increasing number of small holdings as people build their “forever homes” on their piece of land in the country because we are only 20 minutes out of New Plymouth.
I doubt that too many people ride horses on this road any longer. This is one of our main(ish) roads with an astonishing volume of traffic, much of it heavy transport, and much of it travelling fast because it is a 100km/h speed limit.
Then there is this.
And this. Two rigs, two sites.

And lots and lots of these.
Lots and lots and lots in fact.
We have these sorts of installations.
At times we get more of these than we would like. Darned noisy machines.
The first set of power pylons marching across the landscape date back to the Motunui synthetic petrol plant in the early eighties. But now we have more. This latest lot are not for the public good. It is the designated power supply for Todd Energy marching across our rural landscape. The ground below is criss crossed with gas pipelines.
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Our night skies are no longer the velvety darkness which we used to take for granted in the country. Some of us no longer enjoy silence – at any time.

Our roads are being upgraded, even our little side roads, but this is solely to enable them to carry huge loads along what used to be little country lanes.

And there is plenty more to come. Currently, I think we are enduring the drilling of wells 8 and 9 (or thereabouts). It appears that our local councils, without consultation, without an overall plan, dealing with applications on a case by case, non notified basis, have already consented or are in the process of consenting up to FIFTY FIVE, maybe even FIFTY NINE wells in our little Tikorangi. That is an area shaped a little like a cross and measuring about 6km at its longest point and 3km at its widest point, bounded by Epiha A site, Kowhai B site, Mangahewa A site and Mangahewa E site. (A list of wells approved, applied for or announced publicly is at the end of this post. These are only the ones I have found. I do not know if it is complete).(Goodness. I first wrote that two years ago. We now fourteen well sites approved for in excess of 100 wells. Clearly we did not realise in 2013 just how much worse it could get.)
You too can find you now have a major well site on your boundary with no consultation or compensation as this person did. It is no longer a joke. Yes, that is the next door farmer’s boundary fence.
This is Mangahewa C site. In late December, the company was given an extension to their resource consent to more than double the size of the site, apparently without the Council planner making a site visit. She was, it seems, too busy in the lead up to Christmas to get out. She might have been very surprised by what she found, had she made the time.

Read the council planners’ reports and you find references to the effects of this development being “less than minor” and “not altering the rural character of the area”. Words fail me on these bizarre claims except to say that maybe, from one’s office desk in New Plymouth, they don’t look quite like they do on the ground in Tikorangi.

And few of us complain because “you drive a car don’t you?” is the common, sneering response from the ignorant and the ill informed.

Consented and proposed wells in Tikorangi.
Epiha A, Otaraoa Road: 8
Kowhai A, Ngatimaru Road: 6
Kowhai B, Ngatimaru Road: 8
Kowhai C, Otaraoa Road: 8
Mangahewa A, Otaraoa Road – waiting to have confirmed. Best guess at this stage, maybe another 8.
Mangahewa C, Tikorangi Road: 8 consented, number 4 being drilled now but Todd announced at a meeting with locals in the Tikorangi Hall last December that they WILL be drilling a further 9 wells on this site in the next five years. This makes a total of 13.
Mangahewa E, Tikorangi Road: 8
Depending on the number of wells consented for Mangahewa A, that makes a total of 59 (with a small margin of error).

What can Tikorangi residents and landowners do?
Contact the New Plymouth District Council and the Taranaki Regional Council and ask for a moratorium to be placed on any further petrochemical development consents or variations to consents until:
a) A development plan is in place for Tikorangi and
b) The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment releases her final report.

Contacts at New Plymouth District Council could include: Frank Versteeg, versteegf@npdc.govt.nz, Barbara McKerrow mckerrowb@npdc.govt.nz, and the mayor harry.duynhoven@npdc.govt.nz. It will filter down to the lower echelons from there, but I have no idea if the reverse is true.

Contacts at Taranaki Regional Council: consents@trc.govt.nz, david.macleod@trc.govt.nz, basil.chamberlain@trc.govt.nz, fred.mclay@trc.govt.nz.

My follow up post is Saving Tikorangi – what our District and Regional Councils could do.

Update: Monday 11 February
1) This post and its accompanying post “Saving Taranaki” clocked up over 1000 views in 6 days. I have added two extra pointers, 26 and 27, to Saving Tikorangi.
2) Taranaki Regional Council have contacted me to say that none of this has anything at all to do with them. It is all New Plymouth District Council’s problem. How convenient.
3) I am still waiting to discover how many wells have been approved for Mangahewa A site. NPDC appear to be having difficulty finding the records even though this is a large and active site. I have suggested that if they have misfiled or lost the records, no doubt the licensee, Todd Energy, could supply them with a copy.
4) The applications for Greymouth Petroleum’s Kowhai C site are at a considerably more advanced stage than neighbours or locals realised. This, of course, is pretty much the same site that an active local campaign kept Fletcher Challenge out of 15 years ago. Who knew that the same issue would reappear but under a different company name? The same reasons why locals did not want Fletcher Challenge on that site still apply. In fact with fracking, those reasons are probably even greater. It is wildly inappropriate and risky to site major industrial developments in the very heart of a rural community.
5) Reportedly, Todd Energy is describing Tikorangi as “semi rural”. No, Todd. We are rural here. Semi rural is that transition on the outskirts of towns and cities. This is a farming area. The fact there are also some lifestyle blocks does not make us semi rural. Most of us would rather not be semi rural when the other semi is industrial, thank you.

I sent NPDC a photo of Mangahewa A site signage to help them find it

I sent NPDC a photo of Mangahewa A site signage to help them find it

7 thoughts on “Tikorangi Lost – how a little community is being sacrificed to the petrochemical dollar

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Locals have been told for so long that petrochem companies “have rights” that there is a widespread feeling of defeat – that you can’t stop them so you are better to cooperate with them or they will make life even more difficult. Yes, the petrochems have rights, but so do locals have rights and it is time to reclaim those. Petrochems don’t have the right to destroy an area by industrialising it, simply in pursuit of the shareholders’ return. It is time to look at how residents’ and landowners’ rights can be retained alongside such development. And it is time for locals to TALK TO EACH OTHER again. This is and always been such a divisive issue that we’ve stopped talking to each other about it. That is why I want a moratorium on new consents and major variations to consents while a plan for Tikorangi is worked out. You will contact council and ask for this too? Good to hear from you, Rangi.

  1. tboy

    Hi,I happen to work on one of these rigs and as a Waitara local (born n bred) I understand your concerns. We do make a large effort to minimise effects, i.e. noise, vehicle movements, and being friendly to the locals. Unfortunately there are some things that can’t be helped as in lights, mechanical noise and trucks when we move the rigs.
    Please understand that for some people this a blessing as it means we no longer have to leave our families for Ozzy to make a decent crust, often you will see this crust distributed throughout the community as we give a better life for our children and extended families.
    Most wont know that it takes on average about 3 months to complete a hole and 2 weeks to move a rig. So if you do the math on approx. 59 holes with 2(maybe more) rigs, this boom will last about 3 years. Because that is all it is..a boom, which means it will end. Pipe lines will carry all the gas to Motunui and more friends and families will be set up for life in the process and production end. The big drilling rigs will leave, the traffic will deplete, the skys will once again dim. This isn’t the first boom and surely will not be the last.
    So I just ask you to consider the rest of the community, because we consider you as best we can. If a delay is caused, that is all it will be…a delay, and the rigs will be here for longer, and our continuation of work may be affected.
    Kindest regards

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Thank you for providing such a good example of the sort of thing that has been said here for years. That we shouldn’t moan because it is good for other people. Alas, when it is all over in 3 years (IF it is all over in 3 years, which we doubt) we will be left with an industrialised countryside and devalued properties some of which may be unsalable because they are beside industrial sites. We are paying a high price for your family’s financial security. You may have missed the point on my call for a moratorium – we want planned and managed development that respects our rights too. It is not a delaying tactic, staving off the inevitable. It is a planning tactic. Companies have plenty of valid consents to keep the work going – around 30 wells currently approved.

  2. tboy

    Gee, if only there was a moratorium for when the first settlers arrived and started burning down the bushlands and stealing land to build the farms you live on now. Maybe all this wouldn’t be happening? Karma? Or just bad luck.
    Not always planning tactics. We are not always sure if the well will be an angry one or a dud. The next well always depends on the last well. Just shows what you assume.
    You also have just admitted that this is also about the dollar, as I have. You are guilty of greed just like everyone else.
    So on that note, I will continue to do MY best to minimise effects on the surrounding community, continue to make a decent crust while the work is here and continue to share the wealth with my family and the wider community.
    Have a nice day :)

  3. Pingback: A Tikorangi weekend ~ drilling rigs | Michael Jeans

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