Green Party take fight to beaches

By John Cousins

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Green Party MP Gareth Hughes with a smaller version of the billboard by Auckland artist Ross Liew. Mr Liew put his own touch to the  traditional ``Aotearoa - Wish you were here'' postcard so it read ``Anadarko  - Wish you weren't here''.
Green Party MP Gareth Hughes with a smaller version of the billboard by Auckland artist Ross Liew. Mr Liew put his own touch to the traditional ``Aotearoa - Wish you were here'' postcard so it read ``Anadarko - Wish you weren't here''.

Public opinion was divided when Green Party energy spokesman Gareth Hughes took the anti-deep sea oil drilling message to Mount Maunganui's Main Beach on Saturday.

It was part of Mr Hughes' two-week tour of the country's most popular beaches, in which people who were passionate about the issue agreed to take part in a quirky visual petition.

Mr Hughes said about 50 per cent of the people approached on Saturday backed the campaign but, once those who did not have an opinion were removed from the equation, the support grew to about three-quarters.

"It is very much a summer campaign when people are enjoying the beaches."

He was not surprised at the level of opposition to the Greens' campaign, saying it was a debate that polarised people.

Mr Hughes said he managed to turn around some of the people who advanced the pro-drilling arguments of jobs and economic development.

He highlighted the risks of drilling company Anadarko operating at sea depths of 1.6km, compared with the Taranaki's offshore wells where the depths were about 125 metres.

"The industry itself says it is at the frontiers of technology."

Mr Hughes said the Greens would focus on clean energy if they formed part of the Government this year. He highlighted a PricewaterhouseCoopers report, which said the economic opportunities of using clean energy totalled $20 billion a year.

Although the issue was not defined by the generations, he had noticed opposition to deep sea drilling among many young people, and women in particular. Mr Hughes said young people had more opportunities to get into the environment and protect what they loved.

"Young people using technology have a different mindset for economic development."

He said older people who grew up watching Beverly Hillbillies tended to see oil as an easy way to achieve riches, whereas the Greens stressed the impact on fishing and tourism from an oil spill, and the subsidies and tax breaks offered by the Government to multinational drilling companies.

He said New Zealand had the fourth lowest tax and royalty rate in the world and that all the profits would flow offshore.

"The benefits are massively exaggerated."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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