It will probably take a crisis to jolt local farmers into following their Aussie peers' example of denying oil and gas companies access to their land, Queensland environmentalist Drew Hutton agreed with the group he addressed at Norfolk Hall last week Tuesday.
Hutton is touring New Zealand at the invitation of anti-fracking pressure groups, talking on the effects of coal seam gas drilling in Australia on the environment.
He says in Australia some farmers welcomed the opportunity to earn a secure income in harsh economic conditions, allowing exploration and drilling on their land, only to realise belatedly that rural land is being industrialised. He said Kiwis are ill-prepared for the development in the oil and gas industry that is coming.
He leads a coalition of farmers, land owners and environmentalists in Australia in a Lock the Gate alliance. Around 15,000 farmers, he says, have risked being heavily fined by refusing gas companies access to their land, which is illegal.
Drew said the Lock the Gate campaign was not to stop drilling, but to force measures to safeguard the environment and farmers' way of life.
In New Zealand companies must negotiate access with the land owner. Should they be unable to reach an agreement, an arbitrator can be requested by any of the parties.
Drew said though the situations are quite different locals can learn from what they are doing across the Tasman.