Media Release: Landfarming – Toxic waste disposal or recycling of rocks, mud and minerals?

BTW Oeo landfarm incidence 2014 TRC 1280327

Photos from TRC monitoring report on BTW Oeo landfarm, June 2014

Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New Zealand (PEPANZ) Chief Executive Cameron Madgwick said, “landfarming is nothing more than taking the ground-up rocks, mud and minerals left over from drilling activities and recycling them by placing them underneath the topsoil.

Unfortunately, the facts tell a different story. As Climate Justice Taranaki Inc. (CJT) pointed out at the public hearings on the Proposed South Taranaki District Plan, the euphemistically termed ‘landfarming’ is actually the spreading of contaminated oil/gas wastes on farmland, and mostly on the coast in South Taranaki.

By avoiding unpleasant words like ‘carcinogenic, heavy metals and toxic waste disposal’, and using relatively benign words like ‘rocks, mud and recycling’, the industry wants us to believe that it is a good thing to use farmland for disposal of contaminated wastes that the industry generates,” says Catherine Cheung, CJT Researcher.

Compliance monitoring by the Taranaki Regional Council reveals a wide range of contaminants that can be expected on a landfarm, including heavy metals (e.g. Arsenic, Chromium, Mercury), BTEX (Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene, Xylene) and PAHs (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons).  All are toxic to humans and livestock at low concentrations. Some cause cancer.

At WRS Manawapou landfarm, elevated levels of benzene and toluene were detected in the groundwater near one storage pit in 2014, breaching the resource consent. At BTW Oeo landfarm, trace levels of benzene and elevated salinity were recorded in one monitoring bore. At Waikaikai landfarm, the total dissolved salts in groundwater under one spreading area was more than double the consented limit. At least one site, BTW Vanner landfarm in Kakaramea, has received drilling wastes from the East Coast, as other councils have wisely not allowed landfarming in their districts.

CJT emphasized at the hearings that NZ’s regulations are far laxer than international standards. E.g. The acceptable soil endpoints for benzene (1.1-6.7mg/kg) recommended by MfE, MPI and Landcare are orders of magnitude higher than those required in Alberta (0.046-0.073mg/kg), Canada.

Crucially, while short chain hydrocarbons readily biodegrade, longer chain hydrocarbons and heavy metals are typically persistent – a reason why only one-time disposal of petroleum wastes is allowed on landfarms. Furthermore, because of the potential harm to neighbours, the Canadian government requires a 500 metres minimum setback between homes and landfarms. Yet the South Taranaki District Council proposes landfarming to be a ‘Permitted’ activity in the Rural Zone, not even requiring a landuse consent.

The one-time disposal restriction means that the oil/gas industry will always need more land to dispose of their toxic wastes for as long as they drill new wells or rework old wells to continue production. In 2013, Fonterra announced that they would not accept milk from new landfarms. So what has the industry in mind for the coastal land that has supposedly become more ‘productive’ as a result of landfarming? 

To date, there is no research to demonstrate that meat or crops produced from such land is safe. Given the variable range and toxicity of wastes, such research would need to be ongoing and likely be prohibitively costly. And what would such produce be worth, with the ever more stringent demand for assured quality?  Is spreading contaminated wastes on farms the smartest way of using our valuable yet vulnerable coastal area, at a time when extreme weather events are becoming more frequent?  Shouldn’t we be investing in coastal protection instead?” says Cheung.

Media release: Landfarm or Contaminated Coastal Wasteland

South Taranaki landfarm arial photos

Three coastal landfarms in South Taranaki consented for after 2009.

In the proposed South Taranaki District Plan, landfarming, the practice of spreading oil/gas wastes on farmlands, is a Permitted activity in the Rural Zone.

Climate Justice Taranaki, and other submitters, are strongly opposed to this, stating that landfarming should not be Permitted in the Rural Zone or anywhere else, especially on food producing land and within the Coastal Protection Area or catchments of Significant Waterbodies and Wetlands.

As Frack Free Manawatu Action Group aptly pointed out: a sheep farm produces sheep, a dairy farm produces milk, so it is only logical that land receiving contaminated wastes from the oil/gas industry is likely to become contaminated wasteland. The only way to prevent farmlands from becoming contaminated wasteland is not to put contaminated waste on farms in the first place,” said Catherine Cheung, researcher for Climate Justice Taranaki.

Disturbingly, the district council proposes to halve the Coastal Protection Area from 10,401 hectares to just over 5,000 hectares. One of council’s justification is that much of the coastal environment has been heavily modified due to landfarming and agriculture.

To be clear, three euphemistically-named landfarms, in reality toxic waste disposal sites, were consented by council within the Coastal Protection Area after 2009. By doing so, these areas have now become so extensively modified that they are no longer worthy of protection – a justification the district council now uses to substantially reduce the overall Coastal Protection Area,” said Lyndon DeVantier, member of Climate Justice Taranaki.

“This approach is counter to the NZ Coastal Policy Statement under the RMA which requires councils to protect the natural character of the coastal environment, and to restore or rehabilitate degraded or contaminated areas. If council continues with this planning approach, we can expect further degradation of our coastline, with devastating consequences as extreme weather events are becoming more frequent, the result of climate change. Protect it or lose it,” said Cheung.

Photo source:

Top left: BTW Oeo landfarm, in TRC report 1379742 (2014)

Top right: BTW Vanner Kakaramea landfarm, in TRC report 1273973 (2014)

Bottom: Waste Remediation Services Symes Manawapou landfarm, in TRC report 1551929 (2015)

Media coverage: Interview on Waatea News, 23 June 2016

Call for end to Taranaki Landfarming, 29 June 2016 Radio NZ

Media Release: Climate Justice Taranaki seek oil/gas prohibition in sensitive areas to protect human health and safety


This morning, Climate Justice Taranaki spoke at the Proposed South Taranaki District Plan hearings. Below were our key points:

Hundreds of scientific studies concerning oil and gas development have been conducted internationally in recent years. A vast majority (84 percent) of such research has revealed signs of health impacts on nearby communities. Notably, a detailed study in Colorado concluded that residents living within 800m from gas wells were subject to almost twice the cancer risk than those living beyond 800m. Read the rest of this entry »

Press release: District Council must protect our drinking water


At today’s public hearings on the Proposed South Taranaki District Plan, Climate Justice Taranaki argued that avoiding adverse effects on human drinking water sources must be added to the district plan.

Under the proposed plan, the district council is not required to assess explicitly the potential adverse effects on drinking water sources, when considering resource consents. This is just not good enough. All water supplies, whether they’re for rural or urban communities, should be protected,” said Catherine Cheung of Climate Justice Taranaki.

This issue was first raised by Taranaki District Health Board (TDHB) in their submission on the proposed plan. The DHB also recommended that Schedule 5 on Significant Waterbodies be amended, to specifically ensure the provision and protection of human drinking water sources. Under the Health Act and the National Environmental Standards on Sources of Human Drinking Water, council, being the district’s main drinking-water supplier, has the responsibility to protect our drinking water sources.

Our group fully supports the DHB’s recommendations. We were shocked when we read that both recommendations were rejected in Council Officers’ report,” continued Cheung.

Climate Justice Taranaki will be speaking again at subsequent hearing sessions concerning hazardous substances, energy and other issues, in late June.

— END —

Read our hearings statement here.

Media coverage: Opunake and Coastal News, 17 June 2016 page 7

See maps of South Taranaki’s water supplies below, from South Taranaki Water Supply Monitoring Programme Annual Report 2014-2015.

South Taranaki Water Supply north TRC 1604836

South Taranaki Water Supply south TRC 1604836

CJT Spoke on Resource Legislation Amendment


Flare Mangahewa E climate change collage

This morning, members from Climate Justice Taranaki spoke to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee on the government’s proposed Resource Legislation Amendment Bill. The four key points were:

  1. The effects on CLIMATE CHANGE must be at the heart of every resource management decision, if the goal is to truly manage natural resources sustainably and protect our natural environment. Currently, the RMA and EEZ Act prohibit councils and the EPA  from considering the effects of activities on climate change. CJT urge that these be amended, as the government has a legal obligation and duty of care to protect its citizens from climate change.
  2. The proposed Bill takes away councils’ function in preventing and mitigating any adverse effects of the storage, use, disposal or transportation of HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES. This is an extremely dangerous proposition as it eliminates what could protect local communities from  well blow-out, gas clouds and other harmful accidents associated with the fossil fuel and other heavy industries.
  3. Fracking is known to contaminate water, soil, cause serious health effects, induce earthquakes and exacerbates climate change. CJT urge for a nationwide ban on FRACKING and a halt on all fossil fuel exploration.
  4. The proposed Bill erodes ENVIRONMENTAL BOTTOM LINES, dis-empowers the public and threatens democratic processes when it should be strengthening environmental protection and ensuring resource sustainability and public rights in decision making.

Read the rest of this entry »

A “diddly squat” and the “really chunky hard part”


bottled water web

The recent Radio NZ interview with Environment Minister Nick Smith offered some interesting insights into the current government’s view and approach to the management of water.

Many argue that water is the most valuable and contestable natural resource of the 21st century. According to the United Nations, forty-one countries experienced water stress in 2011; ten of them are close to depleting their supply of renewable freshwater and must now rely on non-conventional sources. By 2050, at least one in four people worldwide are likely to be affected by recurring water shortages.

New Zealand is blessed with rich water resources, some 500 trillion litres of it flowing through our lakes, rivers and aquifers. Yet not every region is as ‘rich’, and even the ‘rich’ regions can be ‘poor’ at times.

In the interview, the Minister was adamant on two points:

  • No one owns water
  • No price will be put on water

Read the rest of this entry »

MEDIA RELEASE: Oil and gas block offer total madness


NZPAM 2016 block offer“The government’s announcement to open up a further 525,515km2 of land and sea to oil and gas exploration is total madness. It is completely irresponsible for the government to open up more areas to oil and gas exploration” says Urs Signer, a member of Climate Justice Taranaki.

“Onshore, most of the Taranaki region is now covered in permits and open to bidders. Offshore, everything is up for grabs, including 2,600km2 of the critically endangered Maui’s Dolphin sanctuary.”

“Today’s block offer comes just days after the announcement that February 2016 was the hottest month since records began. Words fail us. We have to leave fossil fuels in the ground and immediately transition to a low-carbon economy. We owe this to our planet, the fellow species we share this amazing place with and to future generations of humans.” Read the rest of this entry »


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