This is what a well site used to look like, in days past. Maybe this is what the Minister for Energy thinks a little bitty well site in a small corner of conservation land will look like. We will hardly notice it is there, will we?
In fact, a modern well site is much more likely to look like this. Difficult to ignore. But it is not just the well sites that people should worry about. It is what happens if the exploratory well is successful. I realized this week that while I have shown a multitude of well sites, heavy road transport, helicopters even, I have overlooked showing what successful well sites can mean.
This is Motunui. It is just over 5km down the road from us. It dates back to the Think Big era of the early ‘80s. Now it is back in full production (methanol) and…roaring. We get to hear it some days, particularly when we get the frequent cloud inversion layers. Some think it means jobs and wealth. Shame about the closest neighbours who get unrelenting noise.
The Waitara Valley Plant is just over 4.5 km from us, as the crow flies. It is another Think Big relic brought back into production with the current boom. It is also appallingly sited for noise dissemination and impacts on a large number of people. The low frequency noise resonates through the upstairs of our house. Since Christmas, we have gone to sleep listening to the droning hum every night and whenever we wake, the droning hum is still there. The quiet nights of our countryside appears to have gone. We fear this may be permanent noise which resonates through our house despite our double glazing. The prospect is unutterably depressing but how much worse must it be for the many neighbours who live closer?
McKee is just over 5.5km up the road from us. We can’t hear it but ALL the heavy traffic passes us. It started life as just a production station but has grown and grown and then grown some more until the area was rezoned industrial. It probably seemed a good idea at the start to locate it out the back in the countryside but locals living nearby or on the sole transport route may beg to differ.
This is Turangi A, a few kilometers away heading towards the coast. It is early days yet but it looks to be on track to be another McKee. There is near continual flaring there now, belching black smoke. I keep hearing claims that we lead the way in Taranaki with best international practice. So how come we mandate ongoing flaring when other countries have banned it?
The mistake is to think that there is anyone tasked with planning, should the exploratory exercise be successful. No sirree. It is more a case of: “6 E. Can we place a tick in box 6E? Okay, yes. So 7A – what do they say for that?” And then we get: “Oh, they’ve found potentially commercial reserves. Well they are already there, so there is precedent to continue.”
Look to Tikorangi and North Taranaki for the future this government wants for the country. Our fresh-faced Minister of Energy, Simon Bridges, could be mistaken for the taxpayer-funded PR spokesman for the petrochemical industry – in my opinion at least. In a move of wonderful irony, young Simon is also the Associate Minister for Climate Change Issues and doesn’t that speak volumes for what this government thinks of climate change? There is a Tui billboard moment for you. This is the Minister who didn’t know there was a 200 000 hectare pristine forest park in an area he put up for petrochemical exploration This is the Minister that refers to ecological issues as “emotive claptrap”.
This is the New Zealand the National Government sees as the way of the future. Industrialising the countryside. Climate change? Let others worry about that.