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Fracking Tour calls for council audit


This weekend's Dirty As Regional Fracking Tour of Taranaki brought together around 60 people from across Taranaki, the Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Dannevirke and Wellington. There was also media from local papers, tv, radio and independent film makers.

The day began and ended with tears for many people as locals Michael Self, Sarah Roberts and others recounted their experiences with the oil and gas industry and the regional council.

It's very hard to prove contamination from the industry but how do you explain a community that has the country's highest rates of cancer and multiple sclerosis alongside carcinogenic diesel frack operations that contaminated the region's water supply? How do you explain the community's high rates of cot death from industrial nitrate poisoning when the only way to prove it is to perform an autopsy on the baby within 20 minutes of death? South Taranaki District Councillor Michael Self explained how a farmer cut open his dead cow and "chocolate blood" spilled out to which he declared "yep, nitrate poisoning". Shell have several more frack operations planned for this area that feeds the town water supply of Hawera. The water intake is directly below the Kapuni wells that are allowed to discharge 'treated' contaminants to rivers. Treatment only involves skimming of hydrocarbons from pits of 'produced water' that can also contain frack chemicals. When this was raised with the district council last year, they immediately started screening the water for BTEX chemicals but have no plan in place if they found some.

From Shell's Kapuni operations we travelled north and inland from Waitara to Shell and the billionaire Todd family's Motunui, Mangahewa and McKee plants. Local's spoke of the fights in the 80s to stop pollution of the reefs and now of unknown gas clouds which virtually fill the sky, of rusting gas pipes threatening hundreds of homes and schools with potential leaks and explosions, trucks that speed down their rural roads carrying flammable and toxic wastes, and roaring gas flares that keep people awake at night for months on end. Resident Margaret Smith can now see 17 wells from her house and more are to come.

We travelled south again to Inglewood and up towards the mountain. Stopping by the town's water supply we travelled further to the water intake on the Ngatoro Stream and from there up to the various 'produced water' discharge points from Greymouth Petroleum's oil and gas wells. Why anyone would allow the discharge of carcinogenic hydrocarbons and other ecocide fracking chemicals into a town's water supply intake truly stumped everyone. Are they in denial? Have they lied so much that they no longer remember the truth? Do they really not understand it's toxic? Or do they just really not care about the people of Inglewood and beyond?

We passed TAG Oil's Sidewinder drill-site and had a look at Greymouth's Ngatoro G. There we were 'joined' by two ProVision security guards who were sent up espcially from Wellington. ProVision is a security company set up by two former police detectives; Gavin Clark and Nicholas Thompson. Thompson and Clark have a track record of placing paid informants into activist groups, selling 'National Extremism' reports for their corporate clients and providing security for events and conferences where protests are expected.

The end of the bus tour was to stop at a farm recently awarded the Taranaki Regional Council sustainable farming award. That farm now has new neighbours, TAG Oil, who are fracking underground into aquifers and paying other neighbours to spread the drilling waste onto their pasture. The council do not test properly for all the chemicals or contamination of the water supply despite publicly saying they do. The farm was not visited in the end as it was all too much for farmer David Morrison who had hand-planted thousands of trees on the property for the betterment of the community and now is too scared to drink the tap water.

It was a horrific tour which left a lot of people sad and angry, and those from outside the region too scared to even have a cup of Taranaki tea. This is how people are increasingly starting to see our beautiful region: poisoned.

To finish the day off a campaign was launched calling for hundreds of letters to the Auditor General to investigate the Taranaki Regional Council's poor regulating of the oil and gas industry. A council that recently removed the word environment from its logo and via its port, is one of the biggest profiteers from the oil and gas industry. Events have also been planned around the country by concerned communities all the way from Stewart Island to the Far North. The movement is growing as fast as the companies try to drill. Some called it a race to the "end of the oil age" as the global economy, built on years of exploitation, grabs for the last of the planet's natural resources. The air we breathe, the water we drink and the soil we grow our food in are all at risk now. The demand for the continuation of our opulent, unsustainable lifestyles will leave the children of the future sick and starving. If we don't stand up now there may be nothing left to stand up for.


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