An energy watchdog says Todd Energy's plans to drill new onshore gas wells in Tikorangi, north of New Plymouth, makes a mockery of the government's declaration of a climate emergency.
Climate Justice Taranaki researcher Catherine Cheung said at a community meeting recently the company said it wanted to drill 24 new wells at its Mangahewa C and D wellsites.
"Todd's proposal to expand the two wellsites and drill two dozen new wells is a slap in the face to everyone who is committed to reducing our own carbon footprint to alleviate the impacts of climate chaos."
Cheung said to go ahead with the drilling programme Todd Energy would have to apply for variation in land use consents from the New Plymouth District Council and variation in discharge consents from Taranaki Regional Council.
"What's the point of declaring a climate emergency if a company can keep drilling and burning more climate wrecking fossil fuels?"
In a statement, a Todd Energy spokesperson said the company was only planning to drill only two wells in the Mangahewa field in 2021, at the G site.
"The 24 wells that referred to by Climate Justice is a proposed future development that is currently in the early planning stages and if approved would take place over a 10-year plus time horizon.
The spokesperson said development activities for any of those wells on the C or D sites would be subject to the completion of a full consenting process.
"That consenting process is planned to commence early this year. Any new wells on the C & D sites would be scheduled after the consenting process is complete and would not take place in 2021."
Taranaki Energy spokesperson Sarah Roberts wanted to see more transparency with regard to the consenting process.
"We have written to the local councils requesting public notification for all new consents or consent changes relating to Todd Energy's expansion programmes in the Mangahewa field. This is in line with the nationwide Climate Emergency Declaration and the Resource Management Act reform which will come into effect post 31 December 2021"
Tikorangi resident Fiona Clark was not hopeful of preventing the work going ahead.
"As a long-term resident, I have observed the horrors that the industry has brought to the community and the local environment since it's set foot in the area. From experience, Todd Energy will likely get its council consents revised to suit their want. Local councils are not known for genuine consultation or respect for affected parties."
Todd Energy outlined its plans for Mangawhewa this year in its latest community newsletter on its website.
It said neighbours of the Mangahewa G site would have noticed its "Big Ben" rig being moved into position.
"The rig has been undergoing scheduled maintenance over the last few months and is now ready to drill two new wells at the site, commencing in early 2021."
The company said drilling was expected to continue through to April, with well stimulation and testing activities scheduled to continue through the first half of the year.
The Todd spokesperson said the Mangahewa drilling program was intended to provide natural gas to support a secure supply of energy to the New Zealand economy.
Cheung said being in a climate emergency meant that the country must deal with the causes and impacts of it seriously and urgently.
"Rather than drilling or mining for more fossil fuels to make more energy, we must downshift our demand for energy and all finite resources, including natural gas. There is much to gain by innovating and redesigning our society with the key focus on well-being for people and the environment in the long-term."