Tag Archives: Taranaki Regional Council

A call for help

collage-of-signs-post-card-1Back in the early 1980s, Mark’s late mother Mimosa was an active supporter of the groups lobbying for clean water in this area of ours. At the time, there were extended hearings into the establishment of the gas to gasoline plant at Motonui – with plans to pipe waste out to sea – and a claim under the Waitangi Treaty regarding discharging of waste to water. In good country-woman style, she would bake food to share at these hearings and on many days she would pack her lunch to head down and sit in support of those speaking out to protect our water.

As can be seen from the photo of all the signage we have now, the need to protect our water has never been greater in this time when “clean and green” is looking increasingly like The Great New Zealand Myth.

Auntie Ivy – Werenia Papakura Kipa. 1982. Photo credit Fiona Clark

Auntie Ivy – Werenia Papakura Kipa. 1982. Photo credit Fiona Clark

I have huge respect for those who continue to battle these issues. Back in the 1980s, visual activist Fiona Clark, did a haunting series of portraits of local kuia (senior Maori women, informally referred to as aunties) in their traditional coastal kaimoana locations (kaimoana – food of the sea). Thirty five years on, she remains resolutely committed to the cause.

To see Fiona and two others being pursued relentlessly by our Taranaki Regional Council for costs related to a consent hearing on discharge of waste to waters around Waitara makes me rage at the injustice. Fiona, Robbie Taylor (son of the hugely respected, late kaumatua, Aila Taylor who led the Waitangi claim back in 1982) and Pikikore Moore are being held personally liable for costs, rather than the group for whom they signed. Friends of Waitara River traces its origins back to those activists of the early 1980s but lacked legal status. By the time the hearing was held, the group was an incorporated society, but when the submission was lodged, they were not. Because of those intervening weeks, the Taranaki Regional Council decided to hold them personally responsible and the law upheld this technicality.

Being right in law does not mean that such action is fair, just or ethical. Nor did that legal process take into account any of the other failures of process on the part of the Council. In fact even the amount demanded remains a mystery but is likely to be in the mid twenty thousand dollars range.

Fishing at the Waitara river mouth

Fishing at the Waitara river mouth

I am departing from my usual gardening posts to ask New Zealand readers to consider donating a few dollars to the Give A Little page raising money to pay the Council. You just need your credit card to hand.

While the very thought of paying money to an organisation I regard as vindictive (and many other words I cannot use publicly) sticks in my craw, that doesn’t help the three people in the firing line. They need help.

Taranaki Regional Council must be really proud of leading the charge – ensuring that environmental groups or individuals can not afford to become involved in democratic processes under the Resource Management Act. Or indeed the Official Information Act. They have set an important precedent for this area and others and the best way to challenge this precedent is to show them clearly that there is great disquiet at what they have done.

...but take no shellfish from the same area

…but take no shellfish from the same area


Gone in a morning – the loss of the Waitara riverbank pohutukawa

Gone. The view from the lookout on Manukorihi Hill.

Gone. The view from the lookout on Manukorihi Hill.

Regular readers will know of our battle to save the pohutukawa trees that line our local river. We lost. Today the chainsaws moved in. In a couple of short hours, trees that were over sixty years old were felled to the ground.
Clearly there was some concern about the possibility of protests. Ironically the body that was hellbent on felling these trees is also the body charged with protecting the environment – that is what we call a Tui billboard moment in New Zealand vernacular. In a case of overkill, Taranaki Regional Council marshalled their staff to patrol the entrances to the area. Why, there was even a boat patrolling the river access. They would have been very cold out there on the river for a few hours. Truly, it is mid-winter here and most of us feel a little too old to scale large trees in order to protect them, so the fear of the operation being disrupted by protest was unfounded.

But oh, how sad to see the needless desecration of handsome, well established trees. Despite their public relations spin, the Taranaki Regional Council didn’t consult widely. They preferred to talk to people who said what they wanted to hear. As the protesting voices grew, rather than taking another look at the plans and seeing whether saving the trees could be accommodated, they set about discrediting, denying and deriding the opposing voices.
053How anybody in their right mind could think that the hostile expanse of concrete flood wall, topped with barbed wire (it is doing double duty as a security wall for the meat packing works behind) was an appropriate form of town flood protection in this day and age is beyond comprehension. It looks like a prison wall. This is the face of Waitara in 2015. We regard it as simply shameful action by Taranaki Regional Council.
042While the chainsaws worked at one end of the row, the digger driver proved that you don’t need chainsaws at the other end – the might of the machine means you can break apart the trees. There was no sign that the men on the site felt any sorrow at the unceremonious felling.

Once were trees. The new view from our town bridge

Once were trees. The new view from our town bridge

With ever increasing population in urban areas, we had thought that the role of protecting mature and handsome trees fell increasingly upon our local bodies, particularly in public spaces. These trees had the potential to live for many hundreds of years without causing any harm or inconvenience to residents while enhancing the centre of Waitara. No more.

Will this pretty scene downstream be allowed to remain?

Will this pretty scene downstream be allowed to remain?

Earlier plans were to fell ALL the riverbank trees. There is fear that this might yet happen. I found this pretty scene just down the river a little further. I wonder if it, too, will suffer the same treatment in the next year or two because the engineer who designed the flood protection doesn’t think there is any place for trees on river banks.

There is no place like home

There is no place like home

Fortunately, I do not live in the town itself so I could come home to our own place with its many, very large trees to soothe my heavy heart. These at least are beyond the reach of the chainsaw-happy regional council.

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.

Saving Tikorangi – what could Councils do?

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

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Then there is this.
And this. Two rigs, two sites.

And lots and lots of these.
Lots and lots and lots in fact.
We have these sorts of installations.
At times we get more of these than we would like. Darned noisy machines.
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.)
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.
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

No problems with petrochem development in Taranaki????

Don't worry. No probs here in Taranaki. Apparently.

Don’t worry. No probs here in Taranaki. Apparently.

It has been an interesting week with the Petroleum Summit in Wellington. Lesser folk have conferences, but this was, apparently, a summit. Interesting snippets were reported. Alarming snippets, even.

1) Minister of Energy, Phil Heatley, was reported as saying of protesters at the summit: “They will have arrived in cars and buses like everyone else and they are extreme”. “They are not really New Zealand. They have concerns but they are not really middle-class New Zealand”. “Protesters are against everything so don’t worry about them too much.”

The subtext might well be: “Our government only represents the middle class voter. These people aren’t going to vote for us so who cares about them?” It is such a breathtakingly naive statement that it must reflect his thinking.

But oh, we do get so irritated by that old chestnut of a simplistic argument: “You drive a car so you are a hypocrite if you ever complain. Lie back and think of Mother England and let the companies do what they wish.” As my partner says, he owns a gun but that doesn’t mean he thinks war is a good thing. The Minister reinforces the view that you are either with the companies – ergo progressive – or you are The Enemy. There is middle ground. It is possible to be critical of some of the companies’ practices without being opposed to oil and gas extraction in its entirety.

2) Still with our man at the Beehive, Minister Heatley assured the petrochemical delegates: “We like you. National likes you and we like what you do and we very much like what you do in Taranaki for the last 100 years, pretty much under the radar, with really no problem.” Right-o then. No probs. (Both those quotes from the Taranaki Daily News, Sept 20).

3) Mr Heatley’s government minions appear to be taking the same line. One Nick Hallett (chief adviser in the resources policy unit of the business, innovation and employment ministry – no capital letters used in the Dom Post where this was reported on Sept 20) is reported as saying that a way of convincing the wider country might be “getting Taranaki to go and speak to other Councils”. Best take care, Mr Hallett, that you chose the Right People from Taranaki to carry out that particular task. I can recommend just the person to do that job – ref point 6. You certainly may not be wanting to send any of the concerned lawyers who appear to be alarmed at the changing nature of contracts.

4) The Stratford Press of September 12 had an interesting article. A meeting of eight Taranaki law firms was convened to discuss concerns at some of the contracts they were seeing their landowner clients signing. “Once the agreement is signed, it is signed,” Mr Philip Armistead from Thomson, O’Neil & Co is quoted as saying, sounding a warning that the potential impact of not understanding what is being signed could be huge. “I have seen agreements where, for laying pipelines, access is also granted to land other than where the pipeline is being laid; some clauses in access agreements provide consent for other associated activities forever; and some limits the companies’ liability should something go wrong.” It used to be that a Federated Farmers contract was used as the basis for access but now there is an escalating trend for oil and gas companies to push their own agreements which are written to favour the company.

5) Board member for NZ Oil and Gas, Paul Foley, has no doubts that there needs to be better public relations for the petrochem industry to counterbalance the increasing levels of scrutiny and protest and, if the Dom Post reported him correctly on September 20, he knows who should be responsible for that PR push – the Government! In other words, the taxpayer should pay for PR to make the public more sympathetic, to discredit any objections and to force locals to grin and bear it.

6) Arguably the most outrageous of all were the comments to the summit by the CEO of Taranaki Regional Council, Basil Chamberlain, as reported in the Taranaki Daily News on September 20. He heads the body that is tasked with monitoring the petrochemical activities in Taranaki. He was apparently a “popular” speaker. I am sure he was, if the reporting was even halfway accurate. “In his address, Mr Chamberlain said oil and gas had a 150-year history here but was still seen as a ‘visitor’ in contrast to agriculture which had ‘full citizenship status’. ‘This status needs to change,’ he said”.

“In short, putting greenhouse gas emissions arguably aside, at this regional scale, across land, fresh water, air or coastal resources, the industry has negligible adverse impacts,” Mr Chamberlain is reported as saying.

Where does one even start? Probably with the breathtaking inappropriateness of the CEO of the monitoring body taking on a role of strong advocate for and supporter of the very companies his organisation is meant to be monitoring. Surely, the Taranaki Regional Council should be seen to be neutral on the matter? This is not the first time Mr Chamberlain has spoken out in support of the industry in Taranaki.

It is of course wilfully brazen to compare major companies, many with a strong multinational holding, to the traditional activity of family farming. Chalk and cheese come to mind.

7) How wonderfully ironic that the very same paper that lead its front page with Mr Chamberlain’s comments also ran a story on page 3 that very same day. There is a bit of a problem with contaminated soil at a Kapuni well site which has had to be trucked out of the province for specialist disposal. “Cleanup of the long-standing contamination at Kapuni well sites started with soil containing hydrocarbons and metals from fluids produced from the KA2 well site,” the paper tells us. It appears that this is the first of four sites to be cleaned up with reasonable urgency. “In the past, fluids from well operations were intermittently released into pits …. (which were) unlined… common industry practice at the time.” These days steel tanks are used, but one wonders how much residue is sitting round on old sites. It is not a comforting thought. But Mr Chamberlain (ref point 6 above) has told the industry that adverse effects are negligible so obviously nobody needs to worry. And Mr Heatley, (ref point 2 above) says there is really no problem.

And still, the local residents get ignored. Taranaki Regional Council certainly doesn’t care about them, even though they are ratepayers. And this National Government doesn’t give a toss either, if Mr Heatley’s comments are any indication. We are just part of the “negligible adverse impacts”.

I can’t be middle class after all. Not according to Mr Heatley. Clearly I’m not really a New Zealander either. In fact I don’t count at all because I am not such a fan of what is happening around me.