Taranaki Energy Watch – 7 December 2015
Taranaki Energy Watch is extremely concerned about proposed changes to the RMA which remove the explicit function of regional and district councils of “preventing or mitigating any adverse effects of the storage, use, disposal, or transportation of hazardous substances” (s30 and s31 RMA). 
This is particularly relevant when deciding where hazardous facilities such as oil and gas well sites and production stations are located in relation to sensitive environments like homes and schools, waterways and significant natural areas. For the Taranaki region (and New Zealand) oil and gas activities are predicted to intensify in the next few years.
The reasoning behind this change is minimal and the Ministry for the Environment has simply stated that the alteration is to “remove duplication between the RMA and the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996” (HSNO). 
The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s (PCE) report on oil and gas regulation in June 2014 states both regional and district councils have responsibilities in the management of hazardous substances and that “the HSNO Act does not cover all the substances associated with oil and gas activities that could cause environmental damage if they were to spill or leak”.
The PCE’s report specifically recommends the regional councils have enforcement powers under HSNO. This has not been resolved. “In fact the proposed changes remove any explicit responsibility with regard to hazardous substances altogether”, said Sarah Roberts, spokesperson for Taranaki Energy Watch.
Despite this amendment not yet being law, the proposals have already affected the publically notified draft South Taranaki district council plan regarding hazardous substances. There is reference to avoiding any duplication of regulation with the HSNO Act withinthe Objectives and Policies, the Hazardous Substances Rules, and the s.32 evaluation report.
“The safety of the community and ensuring adequate community input is being overlooked by these suggested changes. This is particularly worrying when we have oil and gas representatives knocking on doors in Central and South Taranaki requesting access to carry out further seismic testing to look for even more oil and gas” concluded Taranaki Energy Watch’s spokesperson, Sarah Roberts.