Category Archives: Petrochem

Solastalgia – the story of our corner and changing times

Oddly enough, I find being able to put a name to the sense of loss and grief I feel at what is happening to our beloved area of Tikorangi is helpful. Solastalgiathe distress that is produced by environmental change impacting on people while they are directly connected to their home environment. Faced by the high impact of petrochemical development around us on every side, I now refer to the Tikorangi Gaslands. The tragedy is that it is not a joke.

IMG_20141214_0002This is what our corner of Otaraoa and Tikorangi Roads used to look like in the mid 1990s. The havoc on the left hand side is the result of major work Mark carried out to reduce flooding through our park and to return some of the stream to its original bed. His tidy grandfather had straightened up the stream to run along the boundary back around the early 1900s.
IMG_20141214_0001A year or two later and our children are getting off the school bus on what was a quiet country road. Note the trees on the right hand side.
???????????????????????????????This is what our side of the road looks like now. The trees have grown up and many people tell us how much they enjoy the flowering.
???????????????????????????????But we now have the petrochemical industry all round us and down this formerly quiet little country lane is the huge Mangahewa C site with its eight gas wells, single men’s camp and much additional activity. The road has been strengthened and widened for their heavy transport, all done in such a way as it is now impossible to walk along the verge. It is sometimes referred to as “loss of rural amenity”. Children can no longer walk safely to and from school bus stops, cycling is not safe, forget horse riding. It is pretty difficult to find a safe position to stand clear when the heavy transport thunders by. Meantime, across the intersection, the other side of Tikorangi Road – largely unused by the petrochemical industry – has remained unchanged over the past 20 years. It is a stark contrast.
???????????????????????????????And on the right hand side of the road where there used to be trees, there is now a green wasteland dominated by the designated high tension power lines that Todd Energy, a petrochemical company, deemed necessary for their operations. Sadly, petrochemical development is now given precedence over rural amenity, local residents or the preservation of the environment. This is our world of 2014. During the day we listen to the heavy transport. At night, our formerly pitch black sky is often lit by gas flares in one or more quadrants. On an otherwise quiet Sunday morning today, I could hear the distant noise from Mangahewa E site. Every night we go to sleep to a low drone from one of the plants and we are not even sure which one it is any longer because there are four possible sources for the noise. But under the Resource Management Act, we are told by our councils that “effects are less than minor” and we are not, therefore, an affected party.

No wonder some of us feel grief for what we have lost. Solastalgia.

Tikorangi roads, traffic and about that speed limit

Photo: Fiona Clark

Photo: Fiona Clark

We went back to New Plymouth District Council recently. Yet again. To discuss ways in which we could better manage matters related to heavy petrochemical traffic.

Photo: Fiona Clark

Photo: Fiona Clark

Quite a few residents worry about the heavy traffic passing our school.

Photo: Fiona Clark

Photo: Fiona Clark

Photo: Fiona Clark

Photo: Fiona Clark

Look at that speedway effect. We are still trying to get the message across that using the heart of our community as a heavy traffic layby is not good.

005We protested modern road design with such step sides that nobody can ever pull to the side let alone walk, cycle or ride a horse alongside. We see this as a major loss of rural amenity.

005aWe tabled a concern that this type of hostile road design is incompatible with these roads being part of a designated cycle route. There is nowhere for bikes to go when challenged by frequent heavy transport.

Photo: Fiona Clark

Photo: Fiona Clark

We expressed concern at recent road upgrades which make the traffic go even faster at the cost of any other road user and often to the detriment of roadside residents.

007We asked that Council make every sign count. We have so many signs and road cones now that few people take notice. Children crossing signs where locals know no children have lived for decades, horse signs (above) where no horses can be ridden any longer and ever more company signs.

Photo: Fiona Clark

Photo: Fiona Clark

We pointed out the impact of huge loads passing close by. We raised concerns at the excessive speeds some traffic travels.

Photo: Fiona Clark

Photo: Fiona Clark

Photo: Fiona Clark

Photo: Fiona Clark

We pointed out that this traffic was almost certainly parked up because it was school bus time – forcing the school bus over the centre line. We noted that if the speed limit was lowered, it should no longer be necessary to avoid school bus times as a safety measure.

Photo: Fiona Clark

Photo: Fiona Clark

Photo: Fiona Clark

Photo: Fiona Clark

Our community continues to try and function as it always has. This is our sports club and hall area.

Photo: Fiona Clark

Photo: Fiona Clark

Heavy transport -including tanker and trailer units carrying petrochemical product pass through the middle of this activity.

Photo: Fiona Clark

Photo: Fiona Clark

The fun run and walk continue as the tanker passes by.

Photo: Fiona Clark

Photo: Fiona Clark

Look at the wee dot with her sunhat to the left of the tanker – the fun run and walk again.

Photo: Fiona Clark

Photo: Fiona Clark

We asked for a lower maximum speed limit to be trialled. At the moment it is 100 km and many of us think that is just too fast for safety. The Council listened. They heard what we were saying and saw what we were showing. They wanted to take some action and the easiest initial action was to instruct staff to start the process of looking at lowering the speed limit but only on one road – Otaraoa Road. But even such a small gain is progress, we thought. It was reported in the local paper. Enter these three men.

Photo credit: Taranaki Daily News.

Photo credit: Taranaki Daily News.

Nobody consulted them, they said, claiming to speak for the good folk of Tikorangi – the “genuine residents”. You can read their story here.
019 Oh there have been some jokes. Shame the newspaper photographer didn’t stick around to snap these men with a petrochemical tanker and trailer unit bearing down on them at speed from behind, more than one person said. Where are their banjos and rifles, another quipped. Goodness, even Jed Clampett and the Beverley Hillbillies have been mentioned. But what on earth made these men think it was all right to attempt to discredit me, then get into their vehicles to drive down and pose outside Mark’s and my place, resembling a Wild West posse? I can only assume they meant to look intimidating and confrontational when all they had to do was to pick up the phone and ask a few questions.
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There is no problem with speed, they said. The problem, seen clearly here, is allegedly the vegetation from OUR place blocking the view! Oh really? The pictures tell the story. Heavy transport is one of the highest impact effects of petrochemical development. There are ways it can be managed better to reduce the negative impacts. That is what we have been saying since early last year.

Future New Zealand – the Simon Bridges and National Government vision

This is little Pouri A, up the road. The way things used to be

This is little Pouri A, up the road. The way things used to be

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?

Mangahewa D (photo: Fiona Clark)

Mangahewa D (photo: Fiona Clark)

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.

Motunui (photo by Fiona Clark)

Motunui (photo by Fiona Clark)

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.

Waitara Valley

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 (photo by Fiona Clark)

McKee (photo by Fiona Clark)

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.

036

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.

Motunui (photo by Fiona Clark)

Motunui (photo by Fiona Clark)

Welcome to 2014, Tikorangi!

Oh my, but our petrochemical sites are getting very close together now. Some residents may be able to see two sites from their homes. One lucky family has sites close in on both their boundaries now.
Kowhai-c-from-ME-siteThis is Kowhai C site as seen from Mangahewa E site. These sites belong to two different companies drilling right on their boundary which happens to cut through Tikorangi.
KC-from-opp-Kb-on-foremansHere we have Kowhai C site – the one this community said it didn’t want but got anyway. This photo was taken 150 metres to the side of Kowhai B site in order to get a clear view. Both sites belong to the same company – Greymouth Petroleum. Kowhai B is consented for 8 wells. Only one has been drilled so far. Close by, so very close that one wonders why the company needed a second site, Kowhai C is consented for 4 wells.
Kowhai-c-Kowhai C again, this time from Otaraoa Road. It is one of about 10 well sites Greymouth Petroleum has in Tikorangi. I know of 9 that have been consented – I am not sure of the current status of Urenui A (which is not in Urenui but is in Tikorangi).
M-c-Kowhai-C-stakes-M-c-in-This photo taken about August last year – the rig has now gone but it was on Mangahewa C, as photographed from Kowhai C. It is like a quadrilateral of sites, already. These two belong to separate companies again.
ME-from-Stockman-rd-14-12-1Mangahewa E site from Stockman Road (near Mangahewa C site). These two Mangahewa sites are Todd Energy’s but, to be fair, it should be pointed out that Mangahewa C site has 8 wells drilled on it so is at capacity on its current consent.
026Work progresses on the new Mangahewa E site.
???????????????????????????????Mangahewa E site again. It is often stated that this petrochemical development (still called “exploration” but they are long past exploration in Tikorangi where it is decades since a dry well was drilled) is “temporary”. Does this look temporary? How can these developments be temporary when the majority of consents are open ended with no expiry date? Only the most recent three sites have a time limit on the consents – 15, 20 and 30 years. In whose books is this “temporary”?
008And work progresses on extensions at Turangi A site. These are the other company’s sites (Greymouth Petroleum).
???????????????????????????????But wait, there are more. Turangi C site is, according to the company (Greymouth Petroleum) “about” 850 metres from Turangi A site. It can’t be any more than that from Turangi B site, in that case, because it is pretty much set back between the two. Neither Turangi A nor Turangi B have been drilled to capacity. So why does the company need a third site and could they not have deviation drilled from one of the other two sites? Who knows? Only the company and neither New Plymouth District Council nor Taranaki Regional Council seem inclined to ask them why. It looks mighty like speculative consenting to some of us – described by the company rep to me as “future proofing”. Right-o then. That is future proofing the company, not Tikorangi.

Turangi C site broke new territory, even for Tikorangi. The farmer who owns the land from where the photograph was taken was not even told of the site. His farm manager discovered it when site works started. It is consented to go right on the boundary – the bunding will presumably come up to the fence. This is a whole new precedent – getting a heavy industrial site on the boundary and nobody even bothering to tell you. Apparently the company didn’t think it was necessary, neither did the two councils, not even the land owners who let the company in told their neighbour. Only in Taranaki, surely, could this happen.
???????????????????????????????And Kowhai B site with one hole drilled, as viewed from the neighbour’s property. It doesn’t look “temporary” and it was anything but silent on the day I took this photo. It has a significant impact on the neighbour’s adjoining paddock and could well affect his future property options but he was never deemed an “affected party”. I think, to the right of centre at the front of the photo, that is an example of the screen planting done by the company. It’ll be quite a few years before anything is screened by that sort of planting.

Still New Plymouth District Council faffs around with no evidence of any sense of urgency. Despite being responsible for the conditions in the District Plan that have allowed this situation in Tikorangi, they fiddly faddle around the edges, failing to get to grips with planning and management of petrochemical development

Columnist, Dion Tuuta, wrote in our local paper this morning:

“By ignoring the wishes of the iwi, hapu and wider community involved, the company is indicating that it values profit above all else – including its long-term relationship with members of the tribal group in whose area they are likely to be spending a significant amount of time and resources.”

He was referring to Tag Oil’s determination to drill on a sensitive site a mere 220 metres from the Egmont National Park on the flanks of our maunga, Mount Taranaki. His comments are just as applicable to Greymouth Petroleum in Tikorangi. With bells on. In determinedly pursuing the Kowhai C site, against the wishes of the vast majority of the local community, they deliberately ignored all local opinion, just as they wilfully ignored Otaraua Hapu who claim that area as part of their territory. Profit is to come above all else for some of these companies. It is a bitter legacy they are creating. Both those companies might do better to look to the strategies adopted by Todd Energy which places a very high priority on building community relationships and working with the local residents.

Cumulative Effects (of Petrochemical Development)

Side by side newsletters

Side by side newsletters

Two newsletters arrived last week followed up by two circulars to Tikorangi residents – well, one letter and one memo. The difference in style between *our* two petrochem companies operating here is pretty stark.

And side by side letters both appeared in the letter box yesterday

And side by side letters both appeared in the letter box yesterday

But it is the list of current activities that is scary.

Greymouth Petroleum:

1) Construction of Kowhai C site. That is the site that this community spoke up and said we did not want so our District Council helped Greymouth Petroleum by consenting it in secrecy and not addressing community concerns, including Otaraua Hapu whose rohe that site is in. Greymouth did not even acknowledge this community’s concern.

Greymouth's yellow tanker on their new stretch of Otaraoa Road

Greymouth’s yellow tanker on their new stretch of Otaraoa Road

2) Roadworks related to Kowhai C site.
3) Pipeline construction.
4) Drilling rig is coming in to Kowhai C site starting October 26 (‘approximately’ 75 truck movements).
5) A workover is coming to Kowhai A site. This presumably involves a workover rig.
6) Roadworks to the Turangi A, B and C sites.
7) Work is apparently going to start on Ohanga B site shortly. Epiha A is already constructed and presumably ready to drill. Urenui A is apparently planned. Turangi C is not yet constructed. There is talk of extensions to Kowhai A site.

Another day, more traffic here

Another day, more traffic here

Then if we add in Todd Energy’s activities:

8) Fracking and flaring on Mangahewa C site
9) Site works on Mangahewa E site
10) Still more construction of infrastructure facilities on Mangahewa C starting in November.
11) Mangahewa Expansion Train 2 (MET2) construction continuing at McKee.
12) Pipeline construction (includes using a helicopter).
13) Roadworks on Otaraoa Road to improve access to McKee.

This is what a rig move looks like, but multiply by between 75 and 95 loads

This is what a rig move looks like, but multiply by between 75 and 95 loads – though not all are on trucks this large

14) The rig was moved out of Mangahewa C site over the past few weeks. This involved many heavy loads and a small matter of an oil spill last week (right along our two road boundaries here, in fact).

Bit of an oops with a spill on the road outside our place

Bit of an oops with a spill on the road outside our place

048

Permanent tanker movements continue from most sites and from McKee. All of these activities generate noise and heavy traffic.

All year we have been trying to convince New Plymouth District Council that they must address cumulative effects when a range of petrochemical activities are taking place at the same time. But nothing has happened and in the meantime the activity ramps up further.

Tikorangi is apparently the most heavily explored and developed petrochemical area in the country. It used to be a highly desirable and charming little rural community. Now it is reeling. And still more is planned.

Is Tikorangi to be the blueprint for other areas, given this government’s belief that salvation lies in oil and gas development?

Just another load for the MET 3 construction at McKee passing our place

Just another load for the MET 3 construction at McKee passing our place