With just five streets and 300 residents, Whatatutu is an East Coast town you can miss in a blink.
It’s a tight-knit community surrounded by struggling family farms – and shale reserves so vast the area is “literally leaking oil and gas”, according to Canadian mining company Tag Oil.
Armed with exploration licenses issued by the New Zealand government, Tag Oil and its partner Apache intend to extract oil and gas from the shale around Whatatutu using hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”.
Fracking involves injecting millions of litres of highly pressurised water, sand and chemicals into the earth. Mining industry advocates claim the practice is safe – environmentalists insist it leaves a toxic legacy.
The 2012 documentary feature film Fracking Whatatutu will get to the bottom of the story – as it drills for the truth about land ownership and mineral rights, water use and waste disposal, economic benefits and environmental impacts.
The movie will answer the question of whether fracking in Whatatutu – and elsewhere in New Zealand – promises to be our economic salvation or an eco disaster.
Want to see this film made? Filmmakers Tom and Sumner Burstyn (the duo behind the brilliant Oscar-shortlisted doco This Way of Life) are now crowdsourcing for funding.
Keep up with their latest progress here.
Rebekah White is deputy editor at Good.