“ Taranaki’s dirty secret is out! “ says Catherine Cheung, Climate Justice Taranaki.
More than 80 people from across New Zealand gathered in Taranaki last weekend to experience the impacts of the oil and gas industry on local communities and the environment, and to discuss ways to a better future. The conference, titled “Taranaki’s Beauty and the Beast” was co-organised by the Environment and Conservation Organisations of Aotearoa, Sustainable Whanganui Trust and Climate Justice Taranaki.
“The government wants to roll out oil and gas exploitation across New Zealand, with Taranaki as the model. This gathering showed people from the rest of New Zealand the true story – the serious impacts on local communities and the environment from the industry. The fact that we had so many people from such diverse backgrounds tells us that people are really concerned”, Cheung continued.
There were medical and legal professionals, environmental and social scientists, farmers, tangata whenua, students, parents and grandparents. Ora Taiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council, National Council of Women, Forest and Bird, Greenpeace, Clean Earth League, Coal Action Network Aotearoa and 350, were just a few of the many organisations represented there.
The conference included a field trip to several oil and gas operations. At Tikorangi Pa, Otaraua Hapu’s chair Rawiri Doorbar advised landowners to, “Stop them at the gate!” The pa is adjacent to Greymouth Petroleum’s gas facility and an early blockade by the hapu protected the pa from being desecrated.
Back at Muru Raupatu Marae, the conference covered legal, social, environmental, health and Treaty implications. A participant from Wellington, Tara Forde, noted, “the RMA is already seriously weakened and abused. The further erosion being pushed by the current government is an attack on New Zealanders’ core values.”
Green MP Eugenie Sage warned, “Fast tracking consent applications risks even less scrutiny of the impacts of oil/gas activities.”
“Health professionals around the world are concerned by the mounting evidence that fracking has adverse health impacts on local communities, workers, and the planet,” OraTaiao’s Dr Alex Macmillan said.
The conference concluded with a joint statement signed by 18 organisations calling for a total ban of fracking in New Zealand and a transition away from fossil fuels. Since the gathering, Te Kahui (Rongoa national body) and Forest and Bird have also signed the joint statement. This united call follows New York State’s ban on fracking from 2015 and Scotland’s moratorium on fracking released last week. The joint statement is open to other hapu, iwi, councils, groups and businesses who also want to stop fracking.
Fracking prolongs the dependence on fossil fuels. “This is about climate justice, phasing out fossil fuels while we phase in renewable energy, and taking care of the livelihoods of local communities,” explained Jeanette Fitzsimons of Coal Action Network Aotearoa.
Photo: Groups making a stand in front of Greymouth’s well site after listening to Mr Rawiri Doorbar’s speech at Tikorangi Pa, 31 Jan 2015.
Media coverage: ECO groups want oil, gas left along (Taranaki Daily News, 2 Feb)
Oil industry’s impact discussed at gathering (Whanganui Chronicle, 7 Feb)
Concerns on oil well vented (Wanganui Chronicle, 9 Feb)