New Zealand and fracking

From Global Energy Monitor

Fracking has been carried out in New Zealand for over 23 years[1] but concerns have been raised by environmentalists about its negative effects. Some local government jurisdictions have called for a moratorium on fracking but this has been rejected by the government.[2] The environmental effects of fracking are potentially regulated by the Resource Management Act 1991|Resource Management Act (RMA) through the requirement for resource consents.

In 2011, the Taranaki Regional Council published a report that found there had been 43 hydraulic fracturing activities in 28 wells with no evidence of any related environmental problems. The report also found that the risk of contaminating freshwater aquifers was very low. Since August 2011, the Taranaki Regional Council has required resource consents for all subsurface fracturing discharges.[3]

In 2012, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment undertook an investigation into the environmental impacts of fracking in New Zealand.[1] The interim report stated that environmental risks can be effectively managed, and the second phase of the investigation will focus on how environmental risks and regulated and monitored.[1]

In 2013, the Prime Minister John Key stated that hydraulic fracturing had been going safely on in Taranaki for the past 30 years without any issues.[4]


Fracking has been carried out in the Taranaki Region since 1993 and the technique has been used on about 30 wells in the Taranaki and Waikato Regions since 2003. L&M Minerals have applied for exploration permits for coal seam gas extraction off the coast of South Canterbury and on the Canterbury Plains.[5]


Environmentalists have raised concerns about fracking citing concerns about water pollution and induced seismicity. As of 2012 four local government jurisdictions called for a moratorium on fracking - Christchurch City Council, Selwyn District Council and the Kaikoura District.[6][7] Community boards in Christchurch and in the Taranaki District, where fracking is taking place, are calling for a ban.[7] The Energy and Resources Minister Phil Heatley stated that the RMA gives sufficient safeguards.[6]

Straterra, the industry group for the New Zealand resource and mining sectors, believes that the fracking carried out in New Zealand is safe.[8]

In April 2012, the Christchurch City Council voted unanimously to declare the city a fracking-free zone. Any resource consents required for fracking would be lodged with Environment Canterbury, the Regions of New Zealand with jurisdiction over underground discharges, so the fracking-free zone is largely symbolic. A spokesperson for Environment Canterbury said that the regional council has no specific rules relating to fracking but there are existing policies that would apply to applications for fracking.[9]

In New Zealand, an inquiry into fracking was undertaken by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright.[10] A preliminary report recommended tighter regulation on the practise, but stopped short of pushing for a moratorium.[11] The New Zealand Government welcomed the report, but the Opposition doubted the government's commitment on introducing tighter laws.[12] Dr Wright said she couldn't rule out the possibility fracking could cause large earthquakes, like the series of tremors that destroyed much of Christchurch over 2010 and 2011 [13] Environmental Defence Society Chairman Gary Taylor said he was pleased Dr Wright had examined the overarching issue of climate change given the Government's gutting of climate change policy and bias towards fossil fuels. Taylor called for more balanced policy where renewables are given priority and carbon is priced properly.[14]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Evaluating the environmental impacts of fracking in New Zealand". Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. November 2012. Retrieved 2013-02-03.
  2. Anderson, Vicki (27 February 2012). "Energy minister rejects moratorium on fracking". The Press.
  3. "Hydrogeologic Risk Assessment of Hydraulic Fracturing for Gas Recovery in the Taranaki Region" (PDF). Taranaki Regional Council. 24 November 2011.
  4. Maetzig, Rob (22 March 2013). "PM rejects anti-fracking 'nonsense'". Fairfax NZ News.
  5. Anderson, Vicki (24 July 2011). "Fracking: yes or no?". The Press. Retrieved 2011-07-28.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Reid, Neil (19 February 2012). "Fracking the new 'nuke-free'". New Zealand. Retrieved 10 March 2012.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Anderson, Vicki (12 March 2012). "Community boards urge moratorium on fracking". The Press. Retrieved 12 March 2012.
  8. Napp, Bernie (8 August 2011). "Don't believe fracking scare stories". The Press. Retrieved 2011-08-15. Text " " ignored (help)
  9. Sachdeva, Sam (13 April 2012). "Christchurch's frack-free status hailed". The Press. Retrieved 13 April 2012.
  10. "Fracking verdict tabled today". 3 News NZ. November 27, 2012.
  11. "Fracking report holds off on big decisions". 3 News NZ. November 27, 2012.
  12. "Opposition doubts fracking assurances". 3 News NZ. November 28, 2012.
  13. "Fracking moratorium 'unjustified' - report". 3 News NZ. November 27, 2012.
  14. Environmental Defence Society (27 November 2012). "EDS on Fracking Report". Press release. Retrieved on 5 February 2013.

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