No place for oil - hapu group

By Mike Dinsdale

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A group representing Ngapuhi hapu and an environmental lobbyist are warning international oil and mining companies to forget about exploiting Northland's mineral and deep sea resources.

Te Wakameninga o nga hapu Ngapuhi - which represents individual hapu from Bombay north - and Forest and Bird Far North have a simple message for multinational companies interested in deep sea drilling or onshore mining in Northland: "Don't even think about it."

The groups say the Tasman Sea is too turbulent for drilling while the potential environmental effects of mining would costs millions to clean up.

Last week the Government announced the Northland and Reinga basins off Northland's west coast were among several areas to be made available for competitive oil and gas exploration tenders.

It said this could pour up to $2 billion a year into the economy and create thousands of jobs in the region.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said as the poorest of 16 regions, Northland and the East Coast needed to drop opposition to mining and oil exploration in order to become wealthier.

But Bryce Smith, of Te Wakameninga o nga hapu Ngapuhi said the Government is offering the worst options for Northland's future with a large dollop of spin.

"If they get their way, in a few years we'll have dams with millions of tonnes of toxic waste upstream from productive coastal areas and farms and the potential of oil on our beaches," Mr Smith said.

He said the Tasman Sea was turbulent and with a history of shipwrecks and drownings along the west coast it is no place for oil rigs.

"Any Northland deep sea oil drilling would be serviced out of Taranaki, which also makes their [estimates of] local job figures very suspect," Mr Smith said.

Forest and Bird has opposed toxic mining plans across Northland after the area was surveyed in 2011, then marketed to mining companies across the globe.

Dean Baigent-Mercer, chairman of the Far North branch of Forest and Bird, said the toxic waste dam at the old Tui Mine site near Coromandel has finally been stabilised after taxpayers forked out $22.5 million to clean it up. "Let's not repeat these mistakes in Northland," Mr Baigent-Mercer said.

However, Far North Mayor Wayne Brown fully supported oil exploration, saying it would bring much needed income and jobs to Northland.

"It's worked very well for Taranaki and it can have just as many benefits for us," he said.

"Imagine if Kaitaia had 7000 people earning over $100,000 a year. That's what it is like in New Plymouth and as a consequence the town is going ahead very well."

He said concerns about adverse environmental effects had to be addressed, but after years of an oil and gas industry off Taranaki there had been no environmental issues.


- Northern Advocate

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