Greens: Ban deep sea drilling

By Michael Botur

South Piha looking down from Lion Rock. Photo / Herald On Sunday / Jason Dorday
South Piha looking down from Lion Rock. Photo / Herald On Sunday / Jason Dorday

One in 19 ultra deep sea oil wells is likely to experience a spill, Russell Norman told a Piha audience today as the Green Party announced plans to immediately ban deep sea drilling around NZ's coast if the Greens form the next government.

To protect beaches from oil spills, the Greens would prohibit deep sea oil drilling, implement compulsory shipping lanes for coastal shipping, build Maritime NZ's response capacity, and tighten legal responses to foreign companies spilling oil in NZ.

Dr Norman said the policy was announced at Piha Surf Lifesaving Club because "It's an iconic Auckland beach - and the policy is about protecting beaches like this."

The body most likely to be upset by the policy would be the National government because "Oil is a cornerstorne of the National economy," Dr Norman said.

His announcement speech challenged myths about the value which oil adds to NZ's economy.

"90% of oil profit goes offshore."

"There are no deep sea oil drills currently, so now is a good time to prevent the practice."

Ultra deep sea drilling is defined as drilling in waters of 1500m or deeper, while deep sea drilling is in water from 300m to 1499m deep.

Dr Norman told the gathering of local families and Green members his memory of pulling an oil-soaked albatross with a wingspan as tall as him out of a rubbish bin as he worked at Maketu's beach following the MV Rena disaster in October 2011.

"Building a sandcastle on a beach is a Kiwi birthright, but it is at risk from the National Government's deep sea drilling agenda," Dr Norman said.

"National has declared open season on our beaches."

Greens Spokesperson For Energy, Oceans And Mining Gareth Hughes said the policy would be a top priority in post-election negotiations because National and Labour aren't being sufficiently responsive to the dangers of deep sea drilling.

"When people were picking oil blobs up on the beach, the government was having secret meetings with oil companies," Mr Hughes told the audience in front of Lion Rock.

"They even used the Navy to block iwi protestors."

Tania Gaborit presented photographs showing how she took three months off her study of dolphins to used peat moss to clean oil on Maketu's beach.

Gaborit reinforced Green warnings that NZ is not prepared for future oil spills, saying two days after the Rena first began leaking oil, booms had still not been deployed to contain the 2011 spill.

Following the policy announcement, campground operator Fiona Anderson invited families and media to gather in front of Lion Rock with their favourite beach toys for photographs.

"The world-famous Piha Surf Lifesaving reality show is shown around the world," Ms Anderson said, "But this is not the Gulf of Mexico: this is New Zealand."

Today's announcement built upon the 'Wish You Weren't Here' campaign against Anadarko promoted by Mr Hughes in January this year.

- APNZ

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