Or was that Patrick Douglas?

No, it was Murray Douglas, joined by Apache’s Alex Ferguson, ranting about environmentalists, as faithfully reported transcribed yesterday by HB Today’s business writer, Patrick O’Sullivan.

Murray was banging on those he calls “well poisoners” who, as he sees it, are woefully ill-informed about the benefits of fracking (“a bonanza”) and dam building in Hawke’s Bay. It seems that environmentalists have doomed (or are about to doom), through a mischievous “one-sided environmental debate”, two of the Chamber of Commerce’s favourite initiatives to restore Hawke’s Bay to its glory years (the rich 1950s) .

In fact, the only reason the fracking debate has been one sided in Hawke’s Bay is because Apache/TAG have refused to engage. I’ve seen a number of thoughtful, carefully-researched presentations to Councils by those concerned about fracking. I don’t recall Murray Douglas attending any of those. Nor did Apache/TAG show up to correct the “misinformation”. Reporter O’Sullivan quotes Apache spokesman Alex Ferguson at great unchallenged length spouting off about misinformation “creating this fear and anxiety-ridden environment”. Yet Ferguson has never agreed to debate the issue in an open public forum in Hawke’s Bay.

As for the dam, environmentalists are simply, at this point, asking all the questions the Regional Council itself says they legitimately should be asking. Environmentalists involved in the stakeholder group appointed by HBRC are studying carefully the materials that are just emerging from the feasibility study on the dam. Even the HBRC — except, apparently, when it is talking to Murray and the Chamber — admits that there are plenty of answers still to be given as to whether acknowledged adverse environmental impacts can be effectively mitigated … to say nothing as to whether the project is economically viable or even passes the sniff test with farmers in Central Hawke’s Bay.

I doubt Murray has seen or studied any of this material. And so in one respect he’s absolutely right … “It is a debate we have to have…” However, Murray seems to have pre-judged the outcome.

The Chamber’s anti-environmental rhetoric is vintage Chamber scare-mongering. It’s decades old horse manure … globally spread … I’ve heard it recited from Washington DC to, now, Hawke’s Bay New Zealand. It’s tired, worn-out, irrelevant.

Smart business people, and there are plenty in New Zealand, know that businesses of the future must be grounded in environmental sustainability. Check out Pure Advantage or The Sustainable Business Council, where many of NZ’s business heavy-hitters hang out … no 1950s thinking in these groups.

So c’mon Murray. Both of these projects can stand a few months of careful scrutiny without catastrophe befalling us. Push for more jobs in Hawke’s Bay. But not just any jobs. And not at any price. You know better.

Tom Belford

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4 Comments

  1. For what it's worth Tom here's my responce to HB Today….

    I for one would welcome a debate with Murray Douglas about the dangers of hydraulic fracturing to the Hawkes Bay. Unfortunately, neither he nor Alex Ferguson of Apache Corporation state what 'environmental misinformation' opponents of fracking have supposedly been touting. This makes it impossible to refute the defamatory comments they both made in 'Falsehoods on drilling cost Bay bonanza'. However, to get the ball rolling with respect to the misinformation debate, perhaps Murray Douglas could explain exactly how hydraulic fracturing is going to be worth $1,000,000,000,000 to the Hawkes Bay economy, a number quoted by Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule and which scuttle bug indicates came from the Chamber of Commerce.

    It is also interesting that Murray Douglas is blaming environmental debate for threatening the Ruataniwha water storage scheme. Listening to some of the submissions to the HBRC about this issue, it is not the dams themselves that are the real concern but the way in which the HBRC has handled this process behind closed doors. I would like to have seen the 'reports' on the dams being released publicly before we were asked to agree to the inclusion of $80,000,000 in funding in the long term plan.

  2. You seem to forget who brought the issue of fracking to the fore in Hawke's Bay in the first place Mr Belford. It was Patrick O'Sullivan and at least he is trying to present a balanced view. Attacking him personally does nothing for the credibility of yourself or your publication.

  3. Let's leave out the personalities and focus on the ssues please! It is absolutely correct to say Apache/TAG Oil has declined to enter into any public debate over fracking. And it is equally right for HB citizens to push for such a debate, here and now. So whoever may be pushing for it, in this case Tom Belford, I'm right behind them. As for fracking, is it a risk in Hwke's Bay or not? I've yet to be convinced by either side. More evidence please, and less horse manure! And the same for the proposed giant dam in Central Hawke's Bay, although at least in this case we have an elected body – the HBRC – that is accountable to Hawke's Bay voters.

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