In recent weeks, it has transpired that the Waitara *land farm* is, apparently, the only one which had fracking fluids spread over it, and that may have been in the last few months. It is probably the *land farm* that is closest to an urban area. It is also right on the coast, unfenced on the coastal side and open to the Waitara West walkway. These two photos of pits full of liquid were taken by a third party in July 2013. The pits were unfenced. Apparently the pits have since disappeared without trace. Were these the fracking fluids? In which case, why was Pit B unlined? Is this the “world class practice” our regional council keeps claiming for itself?
My June 29 walk
I went for a walk with my daughter along a Waitara beach yesterday. By the Orapa Reef, well known to surfers as Spot X, we scrambled up the bank for a view and to find the Waitara West Walkway and came across… the Brown Road “land farm”. There are areas with no fences here on the seaward side.
“Land farms” sound so innocent, but they are the places where drilling and fracking waste from the petrochemical industry is spread so that, in simple terms, nature can take its course and this contaminated waste can, it is claimed, be rendered benign by bio-remediation in a remarkably short space of time.
Taranaki Regional Council staffer, Gary Bedford, keeps saying publicly that land farms turn “ugly land” (his words) into lovely farm land. This presumably is what Bedford considers is “ugly land”. Some of us might call it sand dunes and think it has a role to play in the natural ecology of the area.
Bedford may think that this bare, grassed area which is all that stands between the “land farm” and the coast is much more attractive. There is no riparian planting at all. The edge of the “land farm” looks very close to the bank at the edge of the beach but then the TRC consent appears to allow them to discharge this waste within 50 metres of the sea which seems awfully close to me.
It appears that this area of the “land farm” has been levelled and resown in grass. However the edges are visibly eroding.
You can see a clear cross section of the soil.
Immediately below the eroding area is a small natural swamp, presumably fed by a spring.
It drains straight down the bank to the beach below. It is hard to see how leaching from the “land farm” area immediately above cannot be feeding into this boggy area and then draining down to the beach.
There are other examples of natural drainage along this stretch of the beach. This one appears to be flowing all the time.
Curious, we drove around the road to find the entrance to the “land farm”. It is only a few hundred metres from the edge of Waitara and some highly desirable properties right on the coast. There we found signage, telling us that the area was under video surveillance (not on the beach side, apparently) and that it is a hazardous area.
Taranaki Regional Council keeps assuring us that these “land farms” in Taranaki are absolutely hunky dory, safe and managed to the highest standards. I do hope they are right but I can’t help being anxious about the spreading of contaminated and toxic waste so close to the coast and so close to a popular recreational area. When one matches all this drilling and fracking waste to the hazardous chemicals details in the applications for consents, it certainly raises questions. If this waste was benign, it would go to landfill. It isn’t, so it goes to “land farms” instead.
What is even more disturbing is that we are taking the waste from other petrochemical exploration around the North Island. Apparently other local bodies are not so keen on keeping their petrochemical waste. This is not the Taranaki I want.