Oil explorers accused of 'gaming' Gisborne resource consents

BUSINESSDESK: The Environmental Defence Society is considering legal action and accuses Canada’s TAG Oil and its 50/50 Texan partner, Apache Corp, of "effectively gaming the system to make it easier for them to get consent for exploration drilling" in the Gisborne and Hawke's Bay regions.

EDS revealed the Gisborne District Council gave no public notification of applications for resource consents issued to TAG and Apache for site establishment works for a drilling platform on a property in Te Karaka.

"The consented activities are clearly stage one of a petroleum exploration activity. The site will be of no value to the applicants if they do not gain consent for drilling activities," says EDS chairman Gary Taylor, who criticised the council for allowing the oil companies to take a "piecemeal" approach to their plans.

"It is best practice for all required consents for an activity to be identified from the outset, applied for contemporaneously and considered together," he said.

"If the applicants are allowed to apply for resource consents incrementally this can mean that later consents are granted based on the baseline created by the earlier consent.

"We are not opposed to oil exploration but we really want to see these large international companies like TAG Oil playing fair and doing things properly," Mr Taylor said.

The practice of would-be oil and gas explorers making piecemeal resource consent applications was also occurring in other parts of the country.

The Tag/Apache plans have attracted public opposition because they have acknowledged some exploration may be suited to hydraulic fracturing – or "fracking" – techniques, which involve pumping liquids into "tight" oil and gas seams to fracture rock formations and release hydrocarbons.

The practice is becoming controversial globally. It can pollute groundwater in some instances and causes minor seismic activity, stoking fears the practice could trigger larger earthquakes.

Apache pledged earlier this year not to pursue fracking until after a report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment into the technology is published later this year.

TAG has extensive onshore Taranaki oil and gas producing interests, which have reached sufficient size for the Toronto Stock Exchange-listed company to be elevated to the TSX main board.

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