Oil and gas explorer offers money for pest project

'If you think they’re just doing it for the love of communities in New Zealand, well you need to get new glasses'

'If you think they’re just doing it for the love of communities in New Zealand, well you need to get new glasses'

PEST: OMV has offered funding to help make Mahia predator-free, but since late last year the regional council has been working on a proposed plan change to prohibit oil and gas exploration activities in certain areas on land. File picture

A CASH injection of $600,000 over four years will contribute to the vision of a predator-free Mahia, following a partnership between Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and Austria-based oil and gas company, OMV.

The regional council was recommended to partner with the company in an investment into the Hawke’s Bay Regional Biodiversity Strategy.

The council-supported community initiative takes a regional approach to improving habitats and supporting native species.

The company offered a principal investment of $50,000 a year for four years.

It was proposed the regional council match OMV’s principal investment. Funding from Predator Free NZ 2050 of $50,000 a year was sought.

Over four years, this would provide $600,000 in funds directed towards a community-led project, supported by the regional council, with the goal of a predator-free Mahia.

This proposal was heavily debated at an Environment and Services Committee meeting last week. Since late last year the regional council has been working on a proposed plan change that would prohibit oil and gas exploration activities in certain areas on land.

It is understood OMV has a permit for exploration activities in Hawke’s Bay.

Wairoa councillor Fenton Wilson, whose ward encompasses Mahia, argued the offer’s timing was positive.

“OMV has come out in a process that will actually put more focus on what it does in Hawke’s Bay.

“This will be a very public matter and if we do partner with them on this particular issue, our regulatory space will be even more intense ... with OMV because of the public nature of this relationship.”

The project was a “great opportunity” for Mahia, which a community with “co-ordination, willpower, and drive” was now rallying behind.

Councillors expressed concern over a perceived conflict of interest raised by the investment. Neil Kirton said he felt challenged, given the council’s view on oil and gas exploration, “that we are, at this point, quite prepared to jump into bed with this group”.

“If you think they’re just doing it for the love of communities in New Zealand, well you need to get new glasses. This is a situation where we need to say no, this is our position and we ought to move to find other partners much more aligned to our thinking than a redundant dinosaur such as an oil and gas company.”

Given there was an “obvious conflict of interest between what this council is proposing to do and the interests of the company offering the money”, councillor Peter Beaven asked whether OMV had put any conditions around their investment.

Council manager land services Campbell Leckie said he understood the company did not expect a lot of profile around the investment, but did want a “sound plan” for how the money would be used, and to ensure reporting was in place.

“Part of this for them is about building relationships in local communities, so they’re very keen for their staff to attend probably once a year and participate in some of the activities.”

Councillors were confident that any relationship with OMV would not sway the council’s decision making, or its regulatory ability.

Councillor Rick Barker spoke against any implication that such investment could affect the council’s impartiality “to do what we’re supposed to do”.

“I value the moral integrity of this council, and for people to imply that this contribution is going to morally compromise any councillor, I reject that absolutely.”

Councillors also advocated that the council seek partnerships with other organisations.

OMV’s website states it has been “actively searching for additional oil and gas resources in New Zealand”.

It holds interests in nine exploration permits, eight as operator, in three offshore production licences or petroleum mining permits in the Taranaki region.

This production makes OMV New Zealand the largest producer of liquid hydrocarbons and the third-largest natural gas producer in the country.

The bidding process is open for oil and gas exploration permits in 5569sq km of Hawke’s Bay’s offshore marine area under the Government’s Block Offer 2017.

— Wairoa Star

A CASH injection of $600,000 over four years will contribute to the vision of a predator-free Mahia, following a partnership between Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and Austria-based oil and gas company, OMV.

The regional council was recommended to partner with the company in an investment into the Hawke’s Bay Regional Biodiversity Strategy.

The council-supported community initiative takes a regional approach to improving habitats and supporting native species.

The company offered a principal investment of $50,000 a year for four years.

It was proposed the regional council match OMV’s principal investment. Funding from Predator Free NZ 2050 of $50,000 a year was sought.

Over four years, this would provide $600,000 in funds directed towards a community-led project, supported by the regional council, with the goal of a predator-free Mahia.

This proposal was heavily debated at an Environment and Services Committee meeting last week. Since late last year the regional council has been working on a proposed plan change that would prohibit oil and gas exploration activities in certain areas on land.

It is understood OMV has a permit for exploration activities in Hawke’s Bay.

Wairoa councillor Fenton Wilson, whose ward encompasses Mahia, argued the offer’s timing was positive.

“OMV has come out in a process that will actually put more focus on what it does in Hawke’s Bay.

“This will be a very public matter and if we do partner with them on this particular issue, our regulatory space will be even more intense ... with OMV because of the public nature of this relationship.”

The project was a “great opportunity” for Mahia, which a community with “co-ordination, willpower, and drive” was now rallying behind.

Councillors expressed concern over a perceived conflict of interest raised by the investment. Neil Kirton said he felt challenged, given the council’s view on oil and gas exploration, “that we are, at this point, quite prepared to jump into bed with this group”.

“If you think they’re just doing it for the love of communities in New Zealand, well you need to get new glasses. This is a situation where we need to say no, this is our position and we ought to move to find other partners much more aligned to our thinking than a redundant dinosaur such as an oil and gas company.”

Given there was an “obvious conflict of interest between what this council is proposing to do and the interests of the company offering the money”, councillor Peter Beaven asked whether OMV had put any conditions around their investment.

Council manager land services Campbell Leckie said he understood the company did not expect a lot of profile around the investment, but did want a “sound plan” for how the money would be used, and to ensure reporting was in place.

“Part of this for them is about building relationships in local communities, so they’re very keen for their staff to attend probably once a year and participate in some of the activities.”

Councillors were confident that any relationship with OMV would not sway the council’s decision making, or its regulatory ability.

Councillor Rick Barker spoke against any implication that such investment could affect the council’s impartiality “to do what we’re supposed to do”.

“I value the moral integrity of this council, and for people to imply that this contribution is going to morally compromise any councillor, I reject that absolutely.”

Councillors also advocated that the council seek partnerships with other organisations.

OMV’s website states it has been “actively searching for additional oil and gas resources in New Zealand”.

It holds interests in nine exploration permits, eight as operator, in three offshore production licences or petroleum mining permits in the Taranaki region.

This production makes OMV New Zealand the largest producer of liquid hydrocarbons and the third-largest natural gas producer in the country.

The bidding process is open for oil and gas exploration permits in 5569sq km of Hawke’s Bay’s offshore marine area under the Government’s Block Offer 2017.

— Wairoa Star

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