Oil and Gas Regulation Plan Change
The Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is preparing a draft plan change, which would prohibit oil and gas exploration in fresh and coastal water bodies in the region.
The plan change would prohibit oil and gas exploration activities within the region’s productive aquifers, aquifer recharge zones, surface water bodies (i.e. rivers, lakes, streams, wetlands and estuaries) and parts of the coastal marine environment.
The Regional Planning Committee, which is driving the Plan Change, is conscious there is significant public interest in oil and gas exploration and there is a lot of debate in the community around the environmental issues and risks associated with these activities, both on and offshore.
During the remainder of 2017, HBRC will consult with key stakeholders, iwi and statutory agencies such as the other local councils. If a regional plan change still proves worthwhile, a proposed plan change will be released for public comment.
In recent years, HBRC has heard concerns from the community about the risks of petroleum drilling (fracking in particular) based on experiences around the world. Some have demanded HBRC impose a ‘moratorium’ on oil and gas exploration activities in Hawke's Bay. However, current laws do not allow a council to place a moratorium on a particular type of activity simply by passing a resolution, and certainly not without wider community input. One option available to the Regional Council is to draft and propose an amendment to rules in its RMA planning documents to restrict (prohibit) specific types of effects and/or activities arising from oil and gas exploration activities.
Recently, Hastings District Council has introduced rules in its new District Plan that prohibit some oil and gas exploration activities over unconfined parts of the Heretaunga Plains aquifer. Those rules do not apply to other water bodies in other parts of Hastings District or the wider Hawke's Bay region.
In 2016, the Council considered two reports on the effectiveness of current regional plans in regulating oil and gas exploration activities in Hawke's Bay. One of those reports in particular followed on from a wider-reaching report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment in June 2014, which looked at environmental oversight and regulation of oil and gas onshore drilling in New Zealand.
Meanwhile New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals (a division of the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment) continued with its regular annual Block Offer processes.
For the past few years, Block Offers have related to offshore parts of Hawke's Bay – no onshore areas. In 2016, the Regional Council submitted in opposition to the [then] proposed offshore Block Offer area. It requested removal of those proposed Blocks which were inside the 12 nautical mile limit (approx. 22km from the shoreline). However, the Minister of Energy and Resources only removed those Blocks inside three nautical miles. Within the 12 nautical mile limit of Hawke's Bay region, the regional council has a role and responsibility for promoting sustainable management of natural and physical resources under the RMA. Those responsibilities can include controlling adverse effects of activities on the environment (such as petroleum exploration and development). Similar resource management responsibilities also apply onshore in relation to freshwater bodies.
Maps of coastal Significant Conservation Areas (in Regional Coastal Environment Plan)