The co-owner of a Taranaki dairy farming operation described as an outstanding example of best practice says he is very worried about the potential for the increasing number of oil wells in his community to contaminate groundwater.
Gavin Faull, his son Oliver and their sharemilking partners Tony and Loie Penwarden, were the inaugural winners of last week's Taranaki Ballance Farm Environment Awards.
Their Tikorangi farm, near Waitara, was described by the judges as a great example of what can be achieved with a long term approach taken to minimising a farm's environmental impact. Mr Faull says they have focussed on mitigating that impact for many years.
"We've had no hesitation in doing riparian plant we've been doing that for the last 15 years at least. So our approach to ensuring that our stream management is under control - which is now almost becoming a requirement.
"We've involved forestry and environmental advisors to help us think through that. And we're very conscious that we're intensive farming, with dairy farming, which is a bigger challenge than sheep and beef operation.
"We handle our effluent very carefully and we put it back out on the pastures so we don't discharge any effluent."
It is perhaps an irony then that Mr Faull has been worried for some time about the environmental impact of the growing number of oil exploration wells in his neighbourhood, two of which are on properties bordering his. He's also concerned about the increase in hydraulic fracturing or fracking taking place.
"Tikorangi has licences for probably 50 to 100 wells. Just take a helicopter and fly around the area. There's huge developments going on, you know, processing plants. I go past a development - there's not a shrub not a tree not a sound barrier anywhere.
"I'm trying to call the oil companies I'm trying to call local bodies to account and saying let's be careful because if the water table gets polluted then we have a problem, because dairying is a water industry."
Mr Faull hopes the environment award will make him a more effective voice.
"It gives me a little bit more leverage with the oil companies - saying hey look, I'm taking life seriously, we're looking after the environment, how about you helping?"
Mr Faull says the award came as a huge surprise. "The competition was amazing - as we were going through the evening we said 'look there's no way, no way we're going to make the number one' as there were some very good farms involved and also some very progressive farming."