Sarah Roberts, of Taranaki Energy Watch, has been fighting for years to have buffer zones around oil and gas sites. (file photo)
This story was originally published on RNZ.co.nz and is republished with permission.
By Robin Martin
After a four-year fight an energy sector watchdog has won a precedent-setting battle which could see safety buffer zones imposed around hundreds of oil and gas wells and dozens of petrochemical installations in Taranaki.
The Environment Court has decided that setbacks of 250 metres for well heads and 650 metres for production stations must be included in the South Taranaki District Plan to minimise the risk of injury or death to members of the public in a fire or explosion.
The New Plymouth District Council and Stratford District Council are also parties to the decision. As is Federated Farmers which says its members have been left scratching their heads wondering what it means for them.
In 2016, Taranaki Energy Watch found it had an unlikely ally when the oil and gas sector joined it in calling for buffers zones to be included in South Taranaki’s District Plan.
But the alliance didn’t last long after farmers labelled the move a land grab, and the zones were quietly removed.
Energy Watch appealed the plan to the Environment Court.
And now in its fourth and final decision, the court has ruled safety setbacks are required.