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Court rules First Gas can access farm to fix major pipeline following obstruction from landowners

First Gas took a High Court case against landowners in north Taranaki over access to a major pipeline.

Ross Giblin/Stuff

First Gas took a High Court case against landowners in north Taranaki over access to a major pipeline.

After being blocked from entering private farmland in north Taranaki to repair a pipeline that supplies more than 90 per cent of the natural gas used in the upper North Island, a gas company has been given the legal green light to go in.

The case between First Gas and landowners Russell Gibbs, his wife Parani Gibbs, and Leigh Horton was heard in the High Court.

First Gas owns and operates the Maui gas pipeline, which runs for 299 kilometres north from New Plymouth.

The pipeline operates under statutory authorisations and two relevant Petroleum Easement Certificates issued under the Petroleum Act.

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These authorisations and easements permit the pipeline to run through part of the Gibbs’ farm.

The court matter referred to the urgent need to fix a “buckle” discovered in a five-metre portion of the pipeline on the Gibbs’ farm, in an area known as Pariroa, about 45 kilometres north of New Plymouth.

In the recently released decision, First Gas claimed the Gibbs had obstructed its access rights to, and use of, the land.

Russell Gibbs was one of the landowners allegedly obstructing First Gas from accessing the pipeline. (File Photo)

Andy Jackson/Stuff

Russell Gibbs was one of the landowners allegedly obstructing First Gas from accessing the pipeline. (File Photo)

First Gas sought a declaration from the court authorising it to enter the land “for the purpose of gaining access to the pipeline and to perform any action necessary in relation to the Maui pipeline”.

It also asked for a declaration that its access rights were not conditional upon it providing “all project documentation to the [Gibbs] or holding project team meetings inclusive of the [Gibbs’] participation”.

A permanent injunction was sought prohibiting the Gibbs from obstructing or interfering with First Gas’ access rights.

There is a history of disputes over access to the Gibbs’ land by First Gas and its predecessor.

Similar issues have arisen relating to a smaller natural gas pipeline also running over the land, called the Kapuni pipeline, and have also been heard in court.

The Gibbs are also a part of a collective that describes itself as Ngā Hapū o Poutama, which has opposed the $280 million Mt Messenger bypass in a number of courts over several years, contributing to the delay in the road’s construction.

The buckle in the Maui pipeline was discovered in 2018.

The “serious defect” required an urgent interim solution, which First Gas achieved by constructing an 800-metre bypass diversion, called phase one of the Pariroa Project.

In this instance, the Gibbs family co-operated with First Gas.

But earlier this year, First Gas had to obtain an interim injunction to reinspect the pipe after the Gibbs refused entry to their land.

The second phase of the Pariroa Project is now due to commence.

First Gas said the planned repair is within its existing rights for work on the pipeline.

But the Gibbs disagreed and said a new agreement is necessary and their consent is required.

They said agreement would not be given without the imposition of terms and conditions.

They also said previous agreements or arrangements imposed conditions on First Gas that meant it must involve them in most aspects of the repair works.

Following a five-day hearing held in September on the matter, the High Court issued its decision last week ruling in favour of First Gas.

The declarations and permanent injunction were issued, meaning First Gas can commence repairs and will be able to enter the Gibbs’ land to carry out any future work on the pipeline.



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