September 24, 2008

Oil, Gas, Dairy Vital to Our Future

T WO stories in yesterday's paper confirmed what many of us have been thinking for some time: that Taranaki is ideally placed to ride out the financial storm sweeping the globe. And maybe come out of it a little ahead.

Taranaki is lucky to have in abundance two commodities that will become more and more important in the coming years of stretched energy resources and food crises: we are certainly the pulse of the nation when it comes to oil and gas exploration, and one of the major players in the supply of dairy products.

Coincidentally, both are among this country's three main exports, with dairy products at No 1 and oil at No 3, just behind meat.

Both have been given a boost with news that the Government is opening up more Taranaki land for oil and gas exploration, and is working on a trade pact with the United States, which will also include Singapore, Chile and Brunei.

These two initiatives could bring hundreds of millions of dollars into our province, which will fuel the engine of progress and investment at the same time as the spigot is being shut off in other parts of the world.

And the news that explorers are ready to spend at least $100 million on seismic surveys and drilling wells around inland Taranaki follows another recent announcement that Tui is to spend $400 million exploring exciting prospects offshore.

As explained above, oil is one of our biggest exports, but the benefits don't disappear out of this country with the exported barrels of crude. Almost $3 billion worth of oil is sent overseas each year, but New Zealand gets $220 million back in royalties and other benefits, and it's a fair estimate that Taranaki gets a healthy portion of that. Also, figures show about 1700 people are directly employed by the industry, with many of those in Taranaki, where they will live, play and spend.

A trade deal with the US will be yet another boon for farmers in a year that has seen costs rise markedly but the pain lessened by record rises in the projected Fonterra payout (some commentators and farmers are tipping the final payout figure, which is announced today, to rise again and top $8).

Many of us struggling with the cost of fuel, food and mortgages may jealously sneer at cockies wearing their new Swannies and driving around in their shiny new Commodores, but New Zealand and Taranaki will need our farmers, and their oil-industry brothers and sisters, to help us get through some tough times ahead.

The money they make for this region directly, and indirectly, will help to keep our home fires burning and our bellies fed.

(c) 2008 Daily News; New Plymouth, New Zealand. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.