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.
In response to this announcement, in September 2018 the Regional Council agreed 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.
In recent years, the Regional Council has heard concerns from the community about the risks of petroleum drilling (fracking in particular) based on experiences around the world. Some have requested the Regional Council 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.
Hastings District Council has introduced rules in its 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.
The Regional Council had commenced preliminary work to assess options for prohibiting exploration activities in and around the region's waterbodies. 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.
In September 2018, the Regional Council agreed to cease further work on this plan change following the Government’s announcement about restrictions on new exploration permits. Work on the plan change preparation was preliminary drafting only and had not progressed to a proposed plan involving formal written submissions, hearings etc.
Maps of coastal Significant Conservation Areas (in Regional Coastal Environment Plan)
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