Agitating &/or Appeasing Apache?

25 01 2012

Alex Ferguson from Apache Corporation yesterday said the company did not offer to pay for an “all-expenses trip” to North America for staff from councils in New Zealand. He also said “It is an unfortunate and not a very welcoming situation that someone decided to give this sort of distorted information to be published.”

This doesn’t seem to be the understanding of council staff who negotiated the arrangement and wrote in their report that is on the public agenda for our meeting this week: “TAG Oil and Apache Corporation… have suggested council staff travel to [British Columbia]… Apache Corporation have offered to pay external costs…”

Mr Ferguson implies I made contact with the Sunday Star Times, in fact it was the reporter that initiated contact and asked questions that I responded to based on what was in the publicly available report to Council.

I take no responsibility for how the reporter chose to frame the situation – I think he was misleading but, as Mr Ferguson acknowledges, the situation risks such interpretation which was why I made sure the reporter knew that Apache is not in charge of the itinerary. While Mr Ferguson may commute from Canada on a monthly basis, overseas travel by public servants in NZ is always viewed with particular interest by New Zealanders.

Mr Ferguson confirms TAG has drilled at Tangamatai near Whangara. Of special interest to me is that the resource consent permits the use of the product “Drill-Pro” and allow for four wells to be drilled but the TAG Oil Annual Report 2011 says they have drilled eight stratigraphic wells on the site.

I understand more drilling this week is planned at the Tangamatai property based on what I was told by someone close to the drillers, but perhaps it simply the drilling for the 700-800 explosive charges to be detonated as part of their seismic survey work near Whatatutu.

To their credit Apache Corporation has demonstrated a commitment to meeting with local residents and trying to answer the many questions presented. The proposed trip to Canada would be useful and I have full confidence in GDC staff who are competent professionals with the highest levels of integrity.

Yesterday I was pleased to receive a copy of the letter from the Christchurch City Council dated 16 January 2012 to the Minister of Energy and Resources requesting a moratorium on fracking until an independent inquiry is completed into the practice. I hear a protest has been organised by farmers in Hawkes Bay to coincide with the Apache presentation to the Hawkes Bay Regional Council this week. This month a number of jurisdictions around the world have banned fracking completely. It seems the tipping point may be close.

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