Fracking fractured in Labour

There appears to be a significant fracture within Labour on oil drilling and fracking.

Shane Jones, Labour’s regional development spokesman, has starkly differentiated Labour from the Greens on oil and gas exploration – see Jones distances Labour from Greens on oil and gas.

But it seems he has also separated himself from Labour’s own Energy spokesperson, Moana Mackey, who seems to lean towards Green policies.

Jones has been visiting Taranaki with Andrew Little, talking to people in the oil and gas industry as Stuff reports in Labour duo keen to talk jobs and growth.

Offshore oil and gas drilling was an essential feature of domestic and export growth, Mr Jones said, and businesses and enterprises enabling it would get full government support.

“Sustainability is as much about sustaining the livelihood of people as it is about guarding the ecological habitat of the Hochstetter’s frog. As long as I am in politics as a Maori politician I am going to be unambiguous in standing up for jobs and people,” he said.

It was “mischievous” to talk about Labour’s policy as designed to suit the Green Party and though he occasionally found common cause with New Zealand First it was only with the aid of a telescope that he might do the same with the Greens.

Jones and Greens seem to be on different energy planets. But it also appears that Jones is following a different energy orbit to his Labour colleague, Mackey.

Labour have scant published policy and nothing on oil drilling or fracking, but in March Mackey released a statement.

Exploration not such a golden opportunity

The government appears to be drawing its economic strategy from reruns of the “Beverly Hillbillies” – crossing its fingers and blindly hoping it will strike oil, Labour’s Energy and Resources spokesperson Moana Mackey says.

“The government should be looking at every opportunity to grow existing businesses in provincial New Zealand and develop new sustainable industries that create well-paid local jobs.

And last year from Mackey:

National’s ‘drill it, mine it, sell it’ approach not the path to economic growth

“This is not where New Zealand’s economic future lies. We need to be investing instead in renewable solutions.

“As a Gisborne-based MP, I know how concerned communities up and down the East Coast are about any expansion of oil and gas exploration in our backyard, in particular the impact on our environment and our tourism industry. And who pays if something goes wrong?

Moana Mackey also questioned whether the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ was part of TAG Oil’s plans for the East Coast.

“An increasing number of governments around the world are reviewing or banning fracking because of concerns about the safety of the practice and in particular the impact on drinking water supplies.

Mackey sounds far more in line with the Greens on this.

Back to Stuff and Jones:

There was an appetite for such growth in Taranaki but the “anti-development” message was strong on the East Coast, where oil and gas exploration is on the increase, and in the Far North, where he was attending an anti-mining hui next month.

Mr Jones said the Greens, some non-governmental agencies and some hapu were delivering that message.

Labour’s own Energy spokesperson has also been delivering that message.

And just last week Mackey was promoting her member’s bill – Renewable energy bill is the best way forward

A member’s bill that aims to address the Government’s ‘hope and pray’ attitude to tackling climate change would ensure all new base-load electricity generation is from renewable sources,  Labour’s Energy spokesperson, and sponsor of the bill,  Moana Mackey says.

“While renewable generation is currently economic in its own right, this bill provides investment certainty for the sector that a major fossil fuel discovery in New Zealand would not change those economics for base-load generation projects.

What’s going on in Labour? Does anyone talk? Does anyone try to coordinate portfolios and policies?

Clashing with the Greens on drilling and fracking will made a Labour-Green coalition difficult enough. But such big differences within the Labour caucus on an important issue like this seems like bad management and bad presentation – at best.

And it points to a much bigger problem – how fracking fractured Labour are.