Mayor Tells Oil and Gas Industry to Frack Off
On July 24, the DCC voted 7-6 to join the call for a moratorium on fracking, making it the fifth local authority to do so. Following the decision, the ODT reported a “fracture” in the relationship between Mayor Dave Cull and his Council and Dunedin-based National MP Michael Woodhouse, which on investigation turned out to just be a bad pun.
“Fracking” is a method of releasing natural gases and petroleum by pumping pressurised fluid into rock. It is of concern to environmentalists, and humans generally, due to the possibility of toxins contaminating groundwater, and has so far been banned in France, Bulgaria and South Africa. The NZ government is currently investigating the practice, and the proposed moratorium would halt new fracking in NZ until the investigation is complete.
Mayor Cull told the NZ Herald that the call for a moratorium “made no judgment” about the safety or merits of fracking and offshore drilling, and only urged for a precautionary approach until the investigation results are known.
When Critic asked Woodhouse about his views, he made it clear that his misgivings are not about the call for a moratorium but rather its motives. He acknowledged the inextricable link between the “no fracking” and “no drilling” campaigns, and questioned the Council’s decision given that there was no fracking planned in Otago. Woodhouse sees the DCC’s request for a moratorium as an attempt to quash the oil and gas business in Otago before it establishes itself. “As long as risks can be managed, and as long as the world continues to rely on fossil fuel, we’d be crazy not to make the most of it.” Woodhouse also expressed concern over the possibility of the Timaru or Invercargill councils taking advantage of the DCC’s reluctance to become involved with the oil and gas business.
When asked whether or not he had any criticism of Mayor Cull’s part in the action, Woodhouse said he had no problems specifically with Cull, but emphasised that “leadership needs to speak with one voice.” However, Woodhouse denied that there was any tension between the two, and revealed that he had met the Mayor for an amicable lunch date just the other day.