5 Jun 2014

Govt urged to intervene on oil waste

7:14 am on 5 June 2014

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment is urging the Government to intervene and stop livestock being exposed to untreated oil industry waste in Taranaki.

In a new report released on Wednesday, Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright said there were no rules or withholding periods in place to ensure the waste had been rendered safe by soil microbes before livestock was run on the land.

And she said that was not good enough.

Oil industry waste, including from fracking, was disposed of on so-called landfarms in Taranaki, Dr Wright said.

"The issue is bigger than the environment. This is a food safety issue and it's an issue of New Zealand's reputation as an exporter of safe food and the perception can be enough."

Dr Wright said she was hoping the food safety and environment ministers would act on her recommendation to set up a working group to resolve the issue of livestock being exposed to oil waste on Taranaki land farms.

It's not a good look for New Zealand to have cattle grazing on sites containing untreated oil industry waste, she said.

Taranaki farmland.

Taranaki farmland. Photo: PHOTO NZ

The Taranaki Regional Council accused Dr Wright of getting it wrong by saying fracking waste had been disposed of on a number of landfarms in the region - but she said she stood by her report.

That contradicted the council's position that only one of its landfarms had ever received the controversial waste.

Council communications manager Rusty Ritchie said the claims in the commissioner's report were unattributed, inaccurate and do not reflect the true position.

However, Dr Wright said it was clear fracking waste was spread on a number of landfarms.

"The earlier consents for land farms speak of well worked-over fluids, which must include fracking fluid. Some returned fracking fluid would adhere to the rock cuttings that are spread on the land," she said.

"It's only this one land farm recently consented which specifies that fracking fluid is one of the well work-over fluids but earlier ones, the returned fracking fluid would have gone somewhere."