Tag Archives: oil and gas development

Lessons from the Tikorangi Gaslands

The genie is well and truly out of the bottle. Flaring on Mangahewa E site down the road. Photo: Fiona Clark

The genie is well and truly out of the bottle. Flaring on Mangahewa E site down the road. Photo: Fiona Clark

Never. Sign. Anything. No matter how careful you think you are being, you are signing away all your rights including future rights to things you may not even know are in the picture. We have signed two consents and have been badly burned on both. Ours is not an isolated story.

If you don’t sign, they will go ahead anyway if they possibly can. But at least you haven’t signed away what few rights you may have.

Being nice to a petrochemical company does not mean you will get a better deal. Better deals go to those who are the hardest negotiators. It is likely the reason why a petrochemical company insists you sign confidentiality agreements is because they do not want you comparing notes with your neighbours where you may well find they have negotiated a much better deal than you have. By way of example, when it comes to payments to farmers for the installation of gas pipelines across their land, a reliable source has told me he has seen agreements where the daily rate is four times higher than the base rate that is initially offered and accepted by most farmers.

Some may be grateful for a hamper containing Bluebird salt and vinegar chips and housebrand Pam's  Christmas mincemeat tarts

Some may be grateful for a hamper containing Bluebird salt and vinegar chips and housebrand Pam’s Christmas mincemeat tarts

Some people go all out for whatever compensation or sweeteners they can get – and sweeteners come in many forms starting with modest Christmas hampers. A few refuse to touch anything. Most will take the sweeteners but, because compensation is rarely offered, they are too polite to demand it. We have never been offered or asked for compensation. In the past we have accepted some minor sweeteners. Whether you want to go all out for whatever you can get, whether you want to accept, maybe even be grateful to the company for sweeteners or whether you prefer the chilly moral high ground of refusing all such offers is entirely personal choice.

Save your home baking for friends and family

Save your home baking for friends and family

Somehow it is more upsetting to be trampled by a petrochemical company when you have allowed their people into your house to talk to you. When the company man or men have sat at your dining room table on a number of occasions, drinking your coffee and eating your home baking, the sense of betrayal feels very personal indeed. I know some residents who will not let them past the doorstep and others who insist on meeting on neutral territory because they don’t want them on their property. I can certainly understand that last position now. These company representatives are not your friends and it is fine to suspend old fashioned rules of hospitality in this situation.

Keep records including notes of all interactions. Never delete emails. File all paperwork. Keep diary notes. You never know when you might need to refer to them. Do not make the mistake of assuming your emails to your *friendly* petrochemical company criticising Council will remain with that company. You may find them in your Official Information Act pack from Council, showing that the company has forwarded them on to the Council. I have.

When a company approaches you for your signed consent, never assume you are being told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. What you are told is likely to be well short of the whole truth. It will be best case scenario for you – but not the company whose best case scenario is very different. And nobody checks what they have told you to get your signature so if, in time, it proves to be inadequate or inaccurate, you have no recourse whatsoever. Because in signing, you signed away your rights.

The way things used to be

The way things used to be

"Just a single well. Probably."

“Just a single well. Probably.”

Or it could be a behemoth of a modern site

Or it could be a behemoth of a modern site

If a company leads you to believe that it will just be a little site – “you will hardly know we are there” one company is reported as saying – do not make the mistake of thinking you will get a little old-style site with a few pipes coming out of the ground and no noise or disruption. Modern sites are different, as evidenced by this behemoth of a site down the road from us and the even larger one on the farm next door. Check what they tell you against their applications for consent. Sometimes they are different. There is a big difference between “we are just going to drill one well” and their application for the full suite of eight wells plus production facilities, as one local family found.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that it will all be over when the holes are drilled. Oh no sirree. Not necessarily. Not at all. There is much ongoing work that will be done and with a big site, you can expect that frequent work to continue, we now find, for the lifetime of the site. But they won’t tell you that when they get you to sign.

Once in on a site, there is the potential for activities to escalate. Because of course they are already there so each small – or indeed large – increase in activity is just another building block on top what they have already laid. After all, in this industry it is impossible to plan ahead with any certainty and of course it is their right to escalate activities. They have invested all this money (for the good of the people, you understand, for private profit is never mentioned) and you signed away your rights back at the start.

Be prepared for the oft-repeated sneer from shallow thinking dumbos: “Well you drive a car, don’t you? You want us to go back to horse and cart? Hahaha.” This has nothing to do with fuelling our cars, even less so when it is gas, as it is in Tikorangi. Suitable replies may be: “I drink milk but I don’t think dirty dairying is okay,” or “I own a gun but it doesn’t mean I believe in war.” Glib, but parallel arguments. Derisory comments come from those who are either benefitting personally from petrochemical development or those who have no idea whatever how bad it can be for the residents living alongside the development.

Don’t expect your local councils to keep you informed. While they may and do have a great deal to do with the petrochemical companies and Their Processes allow them to assist the companies to repeatedly massage their resource consent applications until they fit the clipboard check list, these very same processes do not include keeping the most affected residents and ratepayers informed. At least not until the final decision has been made and it is too late for you to raise any concerns.

No matter how sympathetic some elected councillors may be, they cannot help you. The power base at local body bureaucracy level rests with the paid senior staff. The role of elected councillors is to be the public fall guys for staff actions and decisions and the sooner some new councillors realise this, the happier the organisation will be.

The Councils will assume that everything in the consent applications is complete and correct on the part of the companies and approve it accordingly. There is too little due diligence that I have seen. When you find out after the application has been signed off that it may not have been full and correct, it becomes a matter of personal pride for Council staff to defend their decisions. Catch 22 but no matter, the winners will be the companies.

You are on your own. There is nobody tasked with protecting the residents’ interests. You are just a small fry to be squishied as the Councils and the companies work “to get things right moving forward”.

Stress. Be prepared for considerable stress over a long period of time. I have heard the ongoing anxiety over company plans blamed for marriage breakups amongst residents. Who knows if this is the case, but I do know that the stress is protracted, genuine and very personal. And that stress is all your very own stress so if you feel your anxiety levels rising, you may need to look for help. It can take a year or two from when a company first comes a-knockin’ at your door to get all the consents in place and start the activity. They may drill one hole and then go away. But their consents are commonly for eight holes and they can come back repeatedly over the next two decades – longer for the earlier consents which don’t have an expiry date at all – and drill again. And again. Then they may apply for a variation to the consent to add more activity on the site. That stress ebbs and flows but it doesn’t go away and none of the official processes recognise the stress placed on residents. It drives some residents out but when moving is not an option, you just have to batten down the hatches and cope.

For all these reasons above, trying to work “within the system” is pretty much doomed to failure for the individual. Oh you may have some small victories to keep you happy along the way, but when it comes to the important issues that really matter, the system ensures that the powerful voices triumph.

Coming up soon: Toxic Transport and other delights from the Tikorangi Gaslands.

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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.

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

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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

Tikorangi News

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Welcome to the first edition of Tikorangi News which your council has undertaken to write in response to complaints from a few local residents that they don’t know what is happening in their district. At New Lympouth District Council, we take our duty to consult local residents very seriously and we hope this newsletter will fill the gap. We would like to thank the guardians of the old Tikorangi Dairy Factory for making their butter wrapper available to use as letterhead, reminding us of the semi rural nature of the area. regular_smile

036• We at Council are deeply aware that traffic is a major issue for many Tikorangi residents but we have AWESOME news. We have brokered an arrangement between companies, their subcontractors and Tikorangi School. Starting next week, the trucks will be calling in to the school where the students will be painting happy faces on all the vehicles. We are confident that smiley faces will bring a smile to all Tikorangi residents as the trucks pass by. Drivers have also been instructed to give a cheery wave as they pass. regular_smile regular_smile regular_smile

• Graymooth Petroleum have told us that they are very, very sorry that their drilling rig on Kowhai B allegedly broke their consented noise levels on one occasion and they promise they are doing all they can to remedy this situation. We are confident that this is the case because they even returned our wet bus ticket to us. The good news is that they have nearly finished this well and may shortly be moving their rig to the Stratford area which means it will no longer be our concern. sad_smile

???????????????????????????????• Tikorangi residents will be as thrilled as Council is that the Len Lye Centre has been given the green light. It is only because of Toad Energy’s wonderful generosity that this project is going ahead. In recognition of the special relationship between Toad and Tikorangi, residents will be guaranteed free entry to the new centre when it opens for a period of five years. regular_smile
???????????????????????????????• A few residents have suggested that Greymooth are not abiding by their declared number of light vehicles on their Kowhai B site. We are pleased to report that Greymooth have assured us that they are abiding by all conditions of their consent. We suggest that busybody residents who have counted up to 17 light vehicles parked in the two carparks at the same time should perhaps find something better to do with their time and get a real job. There are only six light vehicles a day travelling to the Kowhai B site. Similarly, Toad have assured us that they too are keeping strictly to the terms of their consent and there are only 8 light vehicles and 3 heavy vehicles driving on to their Mangahewa C site in any 24 hour period during drilling activities.

???????????????????????????????regular_smileThe next edition of the Tikorangi News will be called the Todger News after your council successfully negotiated a sponsorship deal with both Toad Energy and Greymooth Petroleum. This is good news because it means the special needs of Tikorangi will no longer be a drain on the other ratepayers of the district.

• Residents are reminded that they are best to contact the company concerned in the first instance when they have worries. This cuts out the middle man and companies can let us know what queries they have logged. We recently requested the logs from both Toad and Greymooth and were thrilled at the positive entries.
“Thanks so much for our awesome new road. Now we can speed down it at 120km an hour” said one Tikorangi East Road resident (Good news, Otaraoa Rd people. Roadworks will be starting in your area soon!)
“ Thanks guys for the generous gift of a hamper. My wife and I loved it. Now we no longer notice the sound of your generators and drilling rig at night.”
“Don’t take any notice of the carpers and moaners, guys. These few greenies are probably the same types who spend their time buggerising around on Facebook and besmirching the reputation of NLDC. We think you’re great. I will be back at work next week, by the way.”
It was wonderful to read so many positive comments and to know that the companies are taking such good care of you all. ???????????????????????????????

• On a more serious note, Council is reducing the affected party zone for new sites to those people whose residences are 20 metres or less from the site. This brings it in line with the notional boundary ruling in the District Scheme where noise levels are monitored at a distance of 20 metres from the nearest neighbouring houses. Effects from this change should be less than minor and no parties will be adversely affected. The rural character of the area will not be changed by this minor amendment.

• Big thanks go to both companies and their active programme of retro fitting double glazing in houses where the owners do not even have affected party status. This is a wonderfully generous move on their part and one which they are under no obligation to make. regular_smile

???????????????????????????????cry_smile We are acting on concerns raised by an elected councillor at a recent Council meeting regarding malcontents in Tikorangi “besmirching the reputation of the Council”. He suggested a public education programme might be required. Council categorically rejects any insinuation that this may be a case of shooting the messenger and is investigating models of re-education programmes pioneered in the Soviet gulags, the Chinese re-education through labour programmes and the Vietnamese voluntary relocation strategies of the 1970s. We are confident that any troublemaking dissidents in Tikorangi can and will be dealt with promptly and efficiently and will no longer be able to embarrass your council and to sully the reputation of Taranaki.

• Finally, in response to community concerns, we at New Lympouth District Council can assure Tikorangi residents that as far as disruption as a result of the petrochemical industry is concerned, we will leave no stone unturned in our quest to find where the buck stops. We think it may be with central government but we are mindful it may even be international – maybe WTO or OPEC.

• Kia kaha Tikorangi! And remember, you drive a car so you can’t complain. regular_smile

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