It is concerning to hear Taranaki farmers Philip and Ainsley Luscombe describe South Taranaki District Council’s proposed buffer zones between dwellings and oil & gas installations as a “council approved land grab“. Their dairy farm borders onto the Shell Todd (STOS) Production Station, Vector Co-generation Plant and Ballance Agri-nutrients Ammonia Urea Plant and encompasses two Kapuni wellsites. The Luscombes’ submission to the council stated that they’d lose property rights on a significant part of their land because they’d not be able to build within council’s proposed 150-300m set backs from wellsites, industrial and hazardous facilities.
Farmer Darryl Smith and family who also live in the vicinity argued that buffer zones should be required on the sites of any new Rural Industrial Zone developments, but “To impose them on the pre-existing neighbours is theft by stealth, creating a negative effect on capital value and greatly affecting their ability to operate their property and business.” The Smiths’ submission documented the families’ multiple appeals to council in 1968, 1980 and 1998, to set up buffer zones around the then new industrial sites within what is now the Kapuni Rural Industrial Zone. All three attempts were rejected. For the council to now turn around and propose restrictions on neighbouring farmers within prescribed set back distance from petrochem facilities, without some sort of mandatory compensation from the industry, does seem like gross injustice.
Importantly, substantial setback distances way beyond 150-300m are essential for the safety and wellbeing of people and animals who reside and work in close proximity to oil and gas wellsites, hazardous installations and heavy industries. In addition to the fatality risks from well blowouts or gas release within 600m or more, as pointed out by fellow campaigner Sarah Roberts, there are serious health impacts from cancer to birth defects, related to longterm exposures to pollutants and other stresses for people living as far as 700-1600m from wellsites.
We urge all to have a look at some of the submissions on council’s website, and send in further submissions re your support or objection to their points. Notably the Petroleum Exploration and Production Assoc (PEPANZ) and a number of oil companies have submitted on council’s proposed plan, largely, it seems, to further weaken any protection for neighbours and the environment. New Plymouth and Stratford District Councils both submitted in support of South Taranaki’s proposed plan, and are intending to align their district plans and ‘provide regional consistency’. Taranaki Energy Watch’s submission is comprehensive and well worth supporting.
So don’t miss your last chance to have a say because this district plan for South Taranaki with all its rules, will have far-reaching implications on oil and gas and other developments elsewhere in Taranaki and NZ. Further submissions will close at 4pm 29 Jan 2016! Details on council website.