What about *land farms* then?

Unlined and unfenced. What is this liquid on the Brown Road *land farm*?

Unlined and unfenced. What is this liquid on the Brown Road *land farm*?

Update: January 3, 2014
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?
This pit was at least lined but still unfenced. Is this the fracking fluids?

This pit was at least lined but still unfenced. Are these the fracking fluids?

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.

9 thoughts on “What about *land farms* then?

  1. Keith

    Taranaki is a long way from my backyard but this is not the New Zealand I want.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Keith, I think it has to be managed so much better. This is a boom or bust industry meeting the insatiable demand for fossil fuels. When it winds down again, as it will, we want to make sure that there is still countryside worth having. We don’t want more environmental time bombs and we don’t want a countryside desecrated by visible industrial development pepper potted all across areas like this. At the moment we run the very real risk of sacrificing far too much to short term economic gain.

  2. Jason Cullen

    This just blows my mind.
    My family are in the process of coming home from Mackay, Qld. Inland from here the ‘fracking process’ has seen many farms seriously disrupted due to the gasses coming up with the water supply and basically making the water explosive in the watering troughs for the animals as well as people able to ‘set alight’ their house hold water supply from the kitchen sink! I’ve seen it.
    Now to read this about ‘clean green NZ’ image.
    The term “Land farm” is political side stepping, one can’t but think the mighty dollar is the driving force here, just whose pocket it goes in is anyones guess.
    I live on this planet. My children also. I would love for them to be able to drink safe water and grow a vege from the earth, eat sea food.

    I wonder if the ‘Gary Bedfords’ of this world would eat a vegetable grown from his ‘Land Farm’.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Fracking happens extensively here though, to be fair, as it is deep level fracking, we have not had the same problems experienced in other parts of the world where fracking is occurring at shallow levels. Land farms and waste disposal worry me more than the actual fracking at this stage. It is so important that we get it right, because the local environment won’t get a second chance if we don’t. At least not for generations to come. I certainly would not want to drink milk or eat food produced from a land farm. It is just not a risk I would choose to take.

  3. Stewart Bliss

    This is a good example of how our district council works when big money is involved, out of site out of mind . If this was one of our local farmers letting some shed waste down a steam they could be find up to $200.000 even if it was accidental , even if the farm shed waste is biodegradable . This is no accident..These are not land farms they are toxic waste dumps , poorly monitor and poorly managed and allowed by the district council . Have our local district council provided a list of what substances are in these dumps and what there life span is. Do they really no or care I think not..

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      This is Taranaki Regional Council, not district council. A good example of the folly of believing one’s own PR and press releases. I think they probably do believe that the land farms are all absolutely fine but I would prefer them to exercise a great deal more critical thinking on this issue.

  4. Theresa

    Kia ora, Abbie, for documenting and sharing your concerns – which sound justified, unfortunately

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