Tag Archives: Tikorangi oil and gas

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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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.

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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)

Tikorangi News 3: September 8, 2013

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Hi de hi, campers!

Welcome to the third edition of Tikorangi News. Matters are unfolding so rapidly in Tikorangi that we at New Plymouth District Council understand that you need to be kept well informed. At Council we understand. We are very understanding. We understand that Tikorangi residents are disappointed that the Kowhai C site is going ahead. We do. We really, really understand.
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by-school-NgatiMrd-04-09-13 3.49 pm.* Tikorangi folk will be thrilled to see that, like Arnie, Greymouth Petroleum are back! They sure are back. Be reassured that we, here at Council, understand your concerns about safety issues at the entrance to their lovely new Kowhai C site but we are right across safety issues. All of us here at Council are well briefed on their Traffic Management Plan and there is no danger at all. It is perfectly safe.regular_smile
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* It is idle speculation that a Greymouth vehicle may have been involved with this minor traffic incident on Ngatimaru Road at 3.45pm on September 4. We understand the lady in the ute who may have been rear-ended is absolutely fine although the ute may not make a full recovery.
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* Isn’t it wonderful that Greymouth have distributed their newsletter to local residents? It is so packed with handy information and updates so everyone is now really well informed as to what is happening. You will have noted their comment that “We choose sites as far away as possible from residents.” It is not Greymouth’s fault that you Tikorangi folk have your houses too close together. We have reviewed the situations of the neighbours’ houses closest to both Kowhai B and C at 350 metres or less and have concluded, in the most understanding way, that effects will be less than minor and therefore perfectly acceptable. You can trust us to protect your interests. regular_smileregular_smile

* Since learning that they were to get the consent, Greymouth Petroleum’s field staff have been busy as little beavers in the last week visiting local residents. This is called retrospective consultation with the local community. If you haven’t seen your Greymouth rep yet, give them a call. Offering them home made cake and a cuppa is a good way of showing them country hospitality.

021 - Copy* The good folk at Venture Taranaki tell us they are well down the track of preparing their report on the economic benefits to Taranaki of flaring and night lighting sites. Local residents will be well aware that these activities have the positive benefit of lowering their household power bills. There are many other benefits and Venture Taranaki expect to be able to quantify the financial and employment benefits that accrue from the companies’ generosity with flaring and night lighting. Local residents may not realise that a side benefit of flaring is, reportedly, a reduction in flying insects and as a result the risk of a malaria or Ross River virus outbreak in Tikorangi has been greatly reduced.
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* Some Tikorangi residents have called for a lowering of the speed limit through the area. We have taken this suggestion seriously and sought independent expert advice. Contrary to what local residents may think, the expert advice is very clear that we should be raising the speed limit to 120km/hr. This simple action will result in a considerable lowering of risk because the time taken for heavy vehicles carrying hazardous loads to pass your property will be greatly reduced. We will be gazetting the new speed limit shortly and new signage will be posted.

???????????????????????????????* Even we at NPDC have been astonished at just how quickly Greymouth Petroleum have been able to improve your local countryside. It took just one and a half days to change it from this boring and dull country road (shown to the left), into this lovely new scene shown below. You hardly know they are there, do you Tikorangi? This is the incredibly small environmental footprint they have.
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Todd's plantings

Todd’s plantings

Greymouth's pittos

Greymouth’s pittos

* In the spirit of friendly competition, it is clear that your two local petrochemical companies are actively working to make their sites more beautiful than their rival’s. Todd’s entranceway to their Mangahewa C site features rewarewas with herbaceous under plantings. Not to be outdone, Greymouth have spared no expense and gone for high quality pittosporums along the boundary of the Kowhai B site. That is just the ticket. The companies are going to make sure that Tikorangi is more beautiful than ever.

Mangahewa-C-quarters-march-* sad_smile We have heard a few mutterings that some residents may not be happy about the establishment of a semi-permanent single men’s camp with the access on little Stockman Road. My, oh my, what whingers some people are. Such camps are commonplace in the outbacks of Australia and Tikorangi is just as remote. There haven’t been any problems with the camp at Mangahewa C site and we see its relocation to Stockman Road could be a positive move for the community. And of course if somebody wanted to build a hotel on Stockman Road, we would approve it so a single men’s camp is not so different. What could go wrong?

* Residents closest to Mangahewa C who are sad that the last well is to be drilled shortly will be so excited to hear that Todd Energy are planning to drill another four wells there in the near future. Such good news for all. Look upon this as a potential tourist attraction. In the meantime, lucky residents along Tikorangi Road will be pleased to hear that it is highly likely that Mangahewa E will be starting soon and you will get to enjoy the brand new, state of the art drilling rig painted in special colours.regular_smile
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On that positive note, we conclude. Kia kaha Tikorangi! And if things get you down, raise a smile. At the office, we are running a sweepstake on how many more well sites can be fitted in Tikorangi. There will always be room for more.
Your very understanding team at NPDC.

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Click here to read the second issue of your Tikorangi News.
Click here to read the first edition of your Tikorangi News.

My letter to NPDC councillors, emailed on September 2. It has elicited just two replies. A courteous acknowledgement from Cr Biesek and a classic case of passive-aggressive self justification from a councillor who had best remain unnamed at this stage.

Dear Councillors,

It is difficult to convey the sense of betrayal felt at the news that your Council officers are ready to sign off the Kowhai C site. It will not be going to a hearing. I am assuming there are no affected parties under their interpretation of the RMA. There has been no community consultation.

The Tikorangi community came to you in good faith. The letter signed by 80 adults, 75 of whom live in the immediate block around the Kowhai C site, represented a rare expression of unanimity in the district in opposing that site. But you shelved that letter. Greymouth Petroleum has not even bothered to acknowledge receipt of it.

In good faith, we have spent countless hours working to find paths through the development. After all, we were only opposing one site. We could work with the other 12 well sites (now numbering 95 or so potential gas wells consented or in the process of being consented in Tikorangi with a further possible 17 that I know of – there may be more). There was always the sticking point of Kowhai C but your staff assured us it was “on hold”. Your website still shows it as “paused”.

And all the while, as we sat around the table with your staff and put in a great deal of work behind the scenes, those very same staff were working with Greymouth to repeatedly massage their application for Kowhai C to the point where it is now ready to be signed off. But they didn’t tell us that. The first we knew about it was when work started on the site last Tuesday.

Reassurances that it is for 4 wells only and for 15 years ring hollow. Now that they are in, it is easy for things to change and for later applications to vary the consent, based on existing use. There is already precedent for this at Mangahewa C. Councillors change, staff change. You have opened the door to industrial development in the one block which this community opposed.

What is more, in an historic move, Otaraua Hapu stood in solidarity beside Tikorangi residents to oppose Kowhai C site and told you that this is their territory and they had not been consulted or given their consent. Otaraua tell me that the courts have now confirmed that it is indeed their rohe although Ngati Rahiri have challenged that ruling so it is still before the courts. What is important is that Otaraua Hapu has still not been consulted and council officers have not responded to repeated messages and emails on this matter. Yet you are signing off their territory for heavy industrial development. It appears that no lessons have been learned from history.

All but one of the councillors around your table listened courteously and, I thought, gave us a fair hearing even though some of you showed definite allegiances soon after.

But you did nothing. So Kowhai C is going ahead.

Shame on Council staff. The so-called Tikorangi Protocol was based on good faith and trust. I have neither left.

Yours sincerely,
Abbie

Tikorangi Newsletter 2. August 30, 2013

Tikorangi-Butter-paperHi de hi, guys!

Welcome to our second issue of Tikorangi News. We at New Plymouth District Council take our responsibilities to keep residents informed very seriously.

???????????????????????????????• We know that Tikorangi residents were united in their opposition to the Kowhai C site but we have GOOD NEWS. We have halved the number of gas wells Greymouth Petroleum can drill on this site. They are only allowed to have four wells – to start with anyway. This is a win-win situation. They win. And in the future, if they apply for a variation to their consent, they will likely win again.

• We wish to reassure Tikorangi residents that there is NO TRUTH whatsoever in the rumour that Greymouth Petroleum plan to relocate their production station at Kowhai A to Kowhai C site. Not a skerrick of truth and Greymouth have warned their gossiping staff that loose lips sink ships.

• We at New Plymouth District Council want to tell Tikorangi residents that we are making wonderful progress on the voluntary Tikorangi Protocol. The success of this protocol can be measured by the fact that we have put a time limit on the Kowhai C site. It will be all over in 15 years. Unless subsequent council officers grant an extension of course. We can’t be blamed for what happens in the future. And if we need to progress the Protocol without residents being involved, you can rest assured that both Council staff and the companies have your best interests at heart. regular_smileregular_smile

• Finally on the new Kowhai C site, before we “move forward”, Greymouth Petroleum have assured us that they have talked to all the close neighbours to that site. That is, all the neighbours who matter. If you are a close neighbour (maybe even a very close neighbour) and the Greymouth team have not visited you then you just need to wake up and get real. You are not important. Move on. You cannot expect to stand in the way of progress. The same applies to Otaraua Hapu. If they want to be difficult and refuse to meet with the good folk at Greymouth Petroleum, that is their decision and we have no role at all to play in resolving this conflict. Ngati Rahiri’s signature is good enough for us.

IMG_0953 copy Greymouth on Road small• Greymouth Petroleum have asked us to assure residents that they have not forgotten their undertaking to NPDC councillors on June 11 that they will be setting up a blog, holding community meetings and sending out community newsletters to keep you folk informed. They have just been such busy little beavers that they haven’t had time to do it yet. However, they do want everybody to know that they are very, very sorry about the incident back on March 17 when one of their loads took out the power supply to Tikorangi. They assure us that this was a fully compliant load and they are sure that there were pilot vehicles. Somewhere. Of course we understand that little accidents can happen.

• We are a little concerned that some Tikorangi residents are afflicted by hallucinations. Greymouth Petroleum have checked all the GPS records on their vehicles and they have never, we repeat NEVER, used Tikorangi Rd between Ngatimaru and Inland North Roads as an alternative route for their Kowhai B site in 2013. The resident who reported a yellow GMP truck on that road at 2.50pm on March 21 was imagining things. Similarly, the resident who claims she was almost hit by a Greymouth heavy transport when exiting her driveway around 3.00pm on March 25 this year must have been drinking. The heavy load, accompanied by two pilot vehicles that passed along that road between 11.00 and 11.30am on June 25 had nothing whatever to do with Greymouth. Having dealt with all these false allegations, Greymouth have assured residents that they should “feel free to contact (their transport manager) at any time going forward”. We wouldn’t want to be going backward now, would we? sad_smile

• On a more cheerful note we have wonderful news of a new milestone. Little old Tikorangi is now knocking on the door of 13 well sites and when it all goes ahead, you could have the exciting prospect of maybe up to 95 individual wells in your area. Well done Tikorangi! Coming to a paddock near your cowshed soon, if you are lucky. Maybe a party will be in order when you hit the ton. Add in your pumping stations, the switching station and McKee and you have the round number of 20 different sites. This is pretty special, Tikorangi. And you hardly know they are there. Is this not a wonderful situation? At Council, we think it is. Of course, Greymouth have assured us that they are only going to drill one iddle widdle hole at each site and the surplus consented wells are only to “future proof” the company but we are pretty confident that they will drill more than that.
Trucks on raod by Tikorangi school • We have had positive reports that the large loads on your roads are a special attraction for the preschoolers in the area. And some dads, too. Isn’t it just so cute how the appeal of big rigs never fades? You can tell your littlies that there is plenty more to come so the excitement will continue.

???????????????????????????????• An innovative initiative is about to start as we want to teach Tikorangi residents that their roads are safe and that local children will be well looked after if they return to using the free school bus service. This will have the added benefit of reducing traffic on the roads if parents stop driving their children to school instead. “Keep left” will be the slogan. There is plenty of room in the drain for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders. Wear gumboots if it is raining. Just stay as far left as you can because some of these are very large vehicles and the bigger they are, the more important they are.
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???????????????????????????????• New Plymouth District councillors want us to tell you what a wonderful day they had on their tour visiting the companies and they thoroughly enjoyed the hospitality. They are sorry they couldn’t fit in the residents on this recent familiarisation tour, facilitated by Tikorangi’s very own elected representative, Cr Craig MacFarlane. But they were reassured by the companies that any negative impacts on residents are grossly exaggerated and claims of increasing industrialisation of your district are nothing but hyperbole. They saw this for themselves so that is good news. You will be reassured by this and no doubt you will all be voting to re-elect Cr MacFarlane in appreciation of his sterling efforts on your behalf. regular_smile

• Finally, our new complaints system at New Plymouth District Council is working really well. We have set up a new File 13 for all complaints, enquiries and calls on petrochemical matters. Don’t forget that if your complaint is regarding traffic, call the police, not us. It will save everybody time.

Kind regards from all of us at New Plymouth District Council. We are proud to be here to help you. regular_smileregular_smileregular_smile
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