Oil and Gas Regulation Plan Change

On 12 April 2018 the Government announced that there will be no further offshore oil and gas exploration permits granted, with the exception of the 2018 block offer, which is limited to onshore acreage in Taranaki alone.

In response to this, at the 12 September 2018 meeting of the Regional Planning Committee it recommended to Regional Council to cease further work on the preparation of its Oil and Gas Plan Change, with a view to incorporating this work, as appropriate in future coming reviews of the Regional Resource Management Plan and Regional Coastal Environment Plan.  This recommendation was subsequently agreed to by the Regional Council at its 26 September 2018 meeting.

Background

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.

 

Related links

HBRC submissions on proposed Block Offers

NZ Petroleum & Minerals Block Offer process

Report by Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, June 2014 ‘Drilling for oil and gas: environmental oversight and regulation.’

Maps of coastal Significant Conservation Areas (in Regional Coastal Environment Plan)

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