Tag Archives: Abbie Jury blog

Saving Tikorangi – what could Councils do?

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Following on from my post on Tikorangi Lost – how a little community is being sacrificed to the petrochemical dollar, I suggest the following:

1) Stop hiding behind legislation. If the ability for Councils to take a lead role in planning and managing development is not possible under existing legislation and regulation, then admit publicly that is the case and immediately approach central Government seeking change. It appears that the current regulations may be inadequate to meet such major development.
2) Set a moratorium on new consents and major variations to existing consents while an overall plan is put in place and pending the final report from the Commissioner for the Environment.
3) Develop a plan for the district involving local residents as well as the companies.
4) Review the extent to which the use of non-notified consents and the virtual elimination of “affected party status” has led to a culture of exclusion bordering on secrecy between companies and councils whereby local residents only find out what is happening after the consents have been approved.
5) Appoint a residents’ advocate.
6) Give residents a voice, the chance to give a report card, victim impact report even, on what the personal impact has been. Stop ignoring them.
7) Initiate a study into levels of stress and anxiety in local residents as a result of the rapid petrochemical development.
8) Create a single point of contact at Council.
9) Impose a 70km speed limit throughout areas of Tikorangi affected by petrochem dev – ie from Princess St through Ngatimaru Rd to Kowhai A site, Inland North Rd as far as Otaraoa Rd, Otaraoa Rd as far inland as Mckee, Tikorangi Rd from the intersection with Otaraoa Rd to Mangahewa E site.
10) Cease issuing permits for well sites in excess of what a site is suitable for and in excess of what companies have actually planned. This is effectively an open mandate for them to do whatever they want in the future.
11) Do not allow existing use as a reason for granting major variations, as was done with the increase in site area for Mangahewa C, setting a dangerous precedent. If a company applies for use which is beyond the capacity of their site at the time, that should be the company’s problem and not a reason to allow them to hugely expand the site.
12) Conduct independent traffic counts including specific attention to heavy loads and hazardous loads.
13) Define community consultation. A letter box drop is not community consultation. Nor is dropping a large bundle of papers on a local resident or organisation without explanation or interpretation. Indeed, a meeting where a company presents its plans to local residents is not community consultation either. It is merely communicating decisions already made and is therefore community liaison.
14) As the intensity of development escalates, the chances of a major incident greatly increase. This could be an on-site incident such as a well blow out or major malfunction, or a traffic accident involving heavy vehicles, often carrying dangerous goods. Many locals would like advice as to emergency actions in the event of such an incident. Put simply, which way should we drive to get out?
15) Actively discourage Greymouth’s pepper-potting of well sites. Do not permit them to establish separate well sites a few hundred metres apart. Todd have chosen to establish fewer sites and directionally drill. While the impact on neighbours is therefore much higher, the total number of people adversely affected is much lower. Allowing companies to pepper pot sites impacts negatively on many more people and on the environment.
16) Take best practice from one company as the required benchmark for other companies. Todd Energy have made major improvements to flaring, reducing the length of time flaring took place on their third well on Mangahewa C site, to under 30 hours, if my memory is correct. This is a massive change from the months of flaring previously and the improvement for locals was major as a result. If Todd can do it, so can other companies. Similarly, Todd maintains extremely high standards of community liaison and acts on complaints. This does not appear to be true with all companies.
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17) Acknowledge that in the countryside, the norm is silence at night. Setting allowable limits for industrial noise, pays no heed to the severe degradation of quality of life when low grade industrial noise permeates the environment 24 hours a day. The same goes for light. The norm in the country is darkness at night. The well sites are very brightly lit.
18) Look at the whole picture, not just the well sites. The construction is a major intrusion and the infrastructure seems to have bypassed Councils’ notice altogether – the pipelines, the roadworks, the power supplies, the use of helicopters, the seismic surveys. There is layer upon layer.
19) Stop consents being merely a checklist of boxes to be ticked. Look at applications in the context of what is already happening, what the cumulative effect will be and how it all fits with a development plan drawn up for the area.
20) Undertake regular Assessments of Environmental Effects and formal reviews of resource consents. Recognise that when companies pursue a very active programme of encouraging residents to complain direct to them, that it means they can fudge the extent of resident complaints. Indeed, it appears to have been so effective that it can entirely escape New Plymouth District Council’s attention. Council then acts on the unverified assumption that there are no significant problems.
21) Seek external verification of company reports on environmental effects. Do not rely solely on information supplied by the companies and “visual inspections”.
22) Change the way complaints are recorded at Council. Complaints from Tikorangi residents about noise, light, traffic, the state of the roads, littering and assorted other presenting issues are more likely to be about petrochemical development than about anything else, yet they appear to be recorded under a host of other categories.
23) Monitor closely what is happening to property values and the length of time it takes to sell property in Tikorangi. These are another indicator of the health and desirability of the area.
24) Require that sites have screen planting put in as part of the initial site preparation. These industrial sites are an eyesore in a rural area and detract hugely from the visual quality of the environment. Within two or three years of initial site works, that planting should screen sites from view. Take the ability to screen from view into account when approving a site. In other words, hide them. Screen planting may also absorb some of the noise.
25) Recognise that the precedent set by allowing Greymouth Petroleum to position an 8 well site (Kowhai B) immediately on the boundary of the Foreman farm and about 300 metres from Graham Foreman’s home, without his agreement, has set a new bar for permissable intrusion. Many locals now fear that they could suddenly find a rig on their boundary, too.
26) Write a code of conduct for petrochemical companies, even if it has to be voluntary.
27) Independently verify claims made by companies and recognise that the consultants employed by those companies work for them. They are not independent consultants and their advice needs to be considered in that context.

In short, do some actual planning for once.

These, these types of measures are what I have been seeking for over fifteen years since I first sat in Mayor Claire Stewart’s office with the then so-called “planners”. It appears that nothing has ever been done. Councils have abdicated any role or responsibility for planning and leave it to the petrochemical companies.

Tikorangi and other similar areas are paying an unacceptably high price for Councils’ willingness to pander to the powerful petrochemical companies and the petrochemical dollar. The problems are only going to escalate with rampant and uncontrolled growth of the industry.

Genuine resident Tikorangi goat. Draw your own conclusions

Genuine resident Tikorangi goat. Draw your own conclusions

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

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Then there is this.
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And this. Two rigs, two sites.
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And lots and lots of these.
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Lots and lots and lots in fact.
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We have these sorts of installations.
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At times we get more of these than we would like. Darned noisy machines.
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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.)
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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.
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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