Tag Archives: Tikorangi

Tikorangi – the new Texas?

Next door - not quite the Tikorangi locals signed up for when they settled here

Next door - not quite the Tikorangi locals signed up for when they settled here

I can’t honestly say we are thrilled to learn of the deal between Todd Energy and Methanex which will see up to 25 wells drilled to frack the sub strata of the area where we live. Tikorangi isn’t very big and the first three wells are next door to us, with more scheduled to follow on the same site.

But we are pretty much alone in that. Industry thinks it is wonderful. Most Taranaki locals think it is wonderful because it brings jobs and money. The mayor thinks it’s wonderful. Somewhat disturbingly, the CEO of the regional council thinks it is wonderful (I say disturbingly because that is the body tasked with regulating and monitoring the industry’s activities and it is clear that they are very kindly disposed to the key players). The editor of the local paper thinks it is wonderful – which indicates that the paper will maintain its position of being the PR mouthpiece for the energy industry.

The bottom line is that the oil and gas industry may well be good for the national economy. It is certainly very good for the regional economy and means we have a superior class of cafe and restaurant in New Plymouth.

An increasingly common sight in our landscape

An increasingly common sight in our landscape

But there ain’t nuthin’ good for the locals who live by the sites. Nothing. At. All. They are ugly, industrial sites in the middle of rolling, green countryside. Drilling is noisy. The increase in traffic, especially heavy transport, has been major over the years. Flaring is abominable – flaring being the exercise of cleaning up the wells and testing the flows by igniting the gas. Considering there is nothing good for the environment in drilling either, I am somewhat surprised that the industry continues to get away with flaring. Don’t even try and tell me that anything I can do to reduce carbon emissions will help the planet – not when I live in an area where flaring takes place.

Over the years we have seen changes and some for the better. The first well drilled next door to us, maybe three years ago, was flared for many weeks on end. It was so bright, we could see the glow as we drove out of New Plymouth, 25km away. It lit our house all night. But worse was the noise – the constant, unabated, low grade roar which meant that living here was like living on the flight path to Heathrow, but this was 24/7. When you have lived for years in the relative silence and total darkness of the country, flaring has a huge impact on quality of life.

Flaring was greatly reduced for the second well on the same site and I am hopeful that the third currently being drilled (we can hear the rig grinding away in the quiet of the night and the morn), may see flaring reduced further.

Less high handed bullying from the companies is another change. We are lucky. We are dealing with Todd Energy who appear to be one of the better companies to deal with. I had thought the divisive bully-boy tactics of the petrochemical cowboys were in the past now (though only the relatively recent past) until I saw the media statements coming from another company on another site.

But we have also seen changes in the way the councils handle consents and the winding back on the definitions of affected parties. It is very difficult to convince councils that you are an affected party now and if you acquiesce and sign the agreement for one well, essentially you have signed away all rights to object in the future.

I have met with successive mayors and councils over about fifteen years, pleading with them to be more proactive in planning to mitigate the negative effects. They are terribly concerned and sympathetic and nothing happens. Planning, such as it is, remains completely reactive.

I have tried to get District Council to require, as part of the consents process, that sites be screened from public view by planting. I think they should only be visible from the air. High security industrial sites have no place in a rural landscape. Nothing has happened.

Today’s newspaper, where both District and Regional Council hail all the positive benefits of the economic boom gives me no confidence at all that any negative aspects will be even be acknowledged, let alone addressed.

I try not to look but in this case, it is both sides of the road. They should be screened from view.

I try not to look but in this case, it is both sides of the road. They should be screened from view.

So the gentle area where we live, a soft rural landscape with reasonably high density population and a solid core of very longstanding families, both Maori and Pakeha, will just roll with the changes as we have for the past decades. We will be the guinea pigs for fracking here. We will let you know if it does cause earthquakes or contaminate our water supplies. The ground below us is about to be fracked in every direction. We will adapt to the increase in traffic though we probably all hope that the ridiculous practice of laying gas pipelines down our roads and verges won’t happen again (how to cause maximum disruption to the largest number possible and completely without apology!) We will grit our teeth and only complain when the noise incidents get beyond the pale. And some of us will wait.

I think it likely that in a decade or two, all the viable reserves of oil and gas beneath us will be gone. The companies will pull out. The multitudes of small industrial sites I try not to look at will be reclaimed by long grass and then by other vegetation. Processing plants will be mothballed. The traffic will reduce and peace will return. I have to take the long view because the juggernaut that is the petrochemical industry rolls on unchecked in Taranaki in the short term.

The adjacent house is, I understand, still occupied by a very long term Tikorangi resident

The adjacent house is, I understand, still occupied by a very long term Tikorangi resident

Taming the Wilderness – workshop notes

Create space around individual plants to avoid an overgrown, unkempt look

Create space around individual plants to avoid an overgrown, unkempt look

TAMING THE WILDERNESS

Handout notes from the workshop taken here in our garden November 7, 2009 as part of the Taranaki Rhododendron and Garden Festival.

  1. If you are new to the garden, don’t charge straight in immediately and start dropping trees and shrubs. Ideally, give it about nine months to go through the seasons so you can see what is there before you do major felling and removal. In the meantime you can be clearing the lower grade plants – most plants that sucker, clump or seed down can be safely attacked.
  2. Track the path of the sun so you can see where your winter sun and summer shade positions are.
  3. Unless you know what you are doing, seek advice as to which trees are quality, long term trees worth preserving. Somebody at the botanic garden or public park, or an enthusiastic member of a group such as the International Dendrology Society will likely know more than a tree surgeon (whose skills often lie more in safely felling a tree and using chainsaws than in deciding which trees are of value).
  4. Overgrown gardens lose the detail and small treasures, but can give you a framework and maturity to work with. Don’t reduce it all to a blank canvas by clearing everything.
  5. Stand at each window in the house and plan views if possible. Also spend plenty of time looking from every angle in the garden to work out potential view shafts, sun and shade through the seasons.
  6. Make the most of maturity of plants. LIFT AND LIMB. Allow light through underneath and build up layers of garden. Many, if not most, young gardens are badly overplanted to get a quick effect. It is likely that you will need to thin out a number of these plants.
  7. Mature gardens are usually about shade conditions. LEARN TO GARDEN WITH SHADE. Don’t try and turn it all back to sun and a juvenile garden.
  8. CREATE SPACE AROUND PLANTS. The fresh appeal of young gardens is often because each plant stands alone in its own space. As gardens grow, that space gets swallowed up and the plants become entangled. Creating a sense of space again is good for the plant (less competition, more light and more air flow) and creates a more cared for look in the garden. Most gardens need to restrict the size of trees and shrubs.
  9. LEARN ABOUT PRUNING – especially the right times of the year to prune plants and the general rules of pruning. A good pruning saw is worth the expense, as are good loppers. Supervise chainsaw operators carefully – you can not glue branches on later.
  10. Widen paths. Remove anything spiky or prickly beside the path. Creating a sharp edge between a path and garden immediately makes a place look better cared for.
  11. As a general rule, woody trees and shrubs are best left well alone in the root area. Just a feed (preferably in spring) if the plant is looking hungry and pile on the mulch. Herbaceous or clumping plants prefer friable or fluffed soil and in a neglected garden may need to be lifted, divided and rejuvenated.
  12. If you are gardening on a slope or even on a hill, trim the branches and prunings and lay them around the contours of the slope and use them to start building up layers of humus. It is all part of the natural cycle. Bare earth is not a good look.
  13. Be a vigilant weeder from the start. It saves a great deal of time and effort later. Once an area is weeded, lay mulch to suppress fresh young seedlings. You will have many dormant weed seeds in your soil which will spring into life with a bit of light and cultivation.
  14. In our opinions, gardens need some logic to them and this usually means that detailed and tightly maintained areas of the garden are closest to the house, to living areas and entranceways. As you radiate out further, the theme becomes looser and more casual. Most people use outdoor living areas which are close to the house, rather than at the bottom of the garden.
  15. Vegetable gardens need full sun.
  16. As a general rule, water features are best in full sun.

In the Garden 6 November 2009

  • There is precisely no gardening going on here this week as we meet and greet visitors – just the daily garden equivalent of housekeeping with the mower, the blower vac, hose, leaf rake and push hoe. It is a good exercise in keeping a garden looking sharp by maintaining freshly mown lawns and defined edges.
  • Start deadheading rhododendrons as they finish flowering. Oiling your fingers (olive oil is fine), means you don’t get the sticky residue hanging on. If you only have a few plants, deadheading all of them certainly tidies them up but if you have many, then take the time to work our which ones set seed and give these priority. Try and avoid breaking off the new shoots which are coming through just underneath the spent flower.
  • Be vigilant now on weeds. Early season control saves a great deal of work later on. It is warm enough now to push hoe and on a fine day, the sun will dry them to a frazzle. You can only do this if you catch them before they reach seeding stage. If you let them get too large, you really need to cut off and remove the seed heads or you are just spreading the next generation.
  • Do not delay on laying garden mulch before summer. It needs to be down before the ground dries out. Laying mulch suppresses many germinating weeds, conserves moisture, improves the look of a garden and if you are using a nutritious mulch (compost) it adds nutrition and structure to the soil. It is a myth that laying pea straw adds nitrogen to the soil because the peas store all the nitrogen in their roots not their tops. If you are worried about your carbon footprint look for local alternatives – we don’t grow peas commercially in Taranaki and your cheap garden mulch is shipped from points quite some distance away.
  • Top priority in the vegetable garden is getting the crops in which have the longest growing season – melons, aubergines, tomatoes, cucumbers, gherkins, kumara, Florence fennel and corn. You can continue sowing peas but it might be a little late for getting the Christmas Day harvest through in time unless they are already growing. Keep sowing the salad veg for continued harvest (lettuce, mesclun, radishes, micro greens). You can get sowings of basil and coriander in now from seed. Making pesto at home is so easy that that you will wonder why ever bought it.
  • Plant main crop potatoes if you have not yet done so.
  • Last year’s notes tell me that we had a triumph eating our first bowl of home grown strawberries at this time. We certainly won’t be achieving that milestone this year. I don’t think there is even a hint of red visible yet. This can be attributed to the use of a cloche last year.