Protesters deliver clean energy petition

By Kate Shuttleworth, NZ Herald staff

Photo / Kate Shuttelworth
Photo / Kate Shuttelworth

Protesters delivered a petition to the steps of Parliament which makes a fresh appeal to the Government to abandon its fossil fuels agenda.

Greenpeace and 150 people from across New Zealand carried boxes containing over 140,000 signatures and arranged them outside Parliament with a clean energy message for Government.

Te Whanau a Apanui rununga chairwoman Adelaide Waititi spoke to those gathered saying she would continue to oppose deep sea drilling in the Raukumara Basin.

She said it was unfair Elvis Teddy had been charged for protesting at sea.

He appeared in the Tauranga District Court charged with operating his ship in a manner that caused unnecessary risk to another vessel and resisting arrest.

The delivery of the petition came after a rally was held yesterday to support a boat skipper in court for allegedly harassing a Petrobras oil-drilling survey vessel off the East Cape last year.

Members of Oil-Free Otago handed over a separate 2000-strong petition against plans by a Texan oil giant Anadarko's to begin deep sea drilling off the Otago and Canterbury coasts.

Green Party mining spokesman Gareth Hughes tabled the petition today before question time and it would be delivered to a select committee.

"I will be pushing for a full inquiry at the select committee level - so this petition can signal real action," he said.

"Over the weekend at the National Party Conference we saw Energy Minister Phil Heatley, Resources Minister Stephen Joyce and Prime Minister coming out very aggressively pro deep sea oil drilling and fracking. Their key economic plan is to frack it, mine it, drill it, cut it, sell it."

"The Government is coming out so aggressively because they are on the back foot," he said.

Greenpeace New Zealand spokesman Simon Boxer said petition delivered a strong "no" from across the country.

His group has hit out at the Government's Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill, arguing it would fail to stop an oil spill or climate change.

The bill, which had its second reading last Wednesday, establishes an environmental management regime for New Zealand's vast but currently unregulated Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which lies between 12 and 200 nautical miles off the coast.

Parliament's local government and environment committee was last month unable to agree that the bill should be passed, with Labour, the Greens, and NZ First all saying it lacked sufficient environmental protections and was not consistent with New Zealand's international treaty obligations.

Greenpeace has also joined East Coast iwi Te Whanau a Apanui in appealing an early decision not to revoke the permit given to Petrobras to explore for oil in the deep water off the East Cape.

Drilling exploration permits risky

The Green Party has also hit out at permits to drill exploratory wells at depths greater than 1000 metres, saying they could put New Zealand at risk of an environmental catastrophe similar to the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mr Hughes questioned the Government aggressively advocating for deep water drilling.

"It shows that the government is on the defensive and losing the public debate,'' said Mr Hughes.

Two permits issued by the Government for exploration off the coast of Wellington and Otago would drill wells at depths up to 2700 metres - well in excess of the 1500 metre well at Deep Water Horizon which caused an oil spill.

Permit 12PEG2, off the coast of Wellington, covers depths ranging from 1000 - 2700 metres and 12GS2, off the coast of Otago, ranges from 1250 - 2250 metres.

Minister of Energy and Resources Phil Heatley said the deepest well ever drilled in New Zealand was the Wakanui1 at 1467 meters and the deepest currently producing well is the Tui at 125 metres.

"I'd like to note that the exploration permits for 12GS2, which were just released, were also tendered by the previous Government supported by Labour and the Green parties,'' said Mr Heatley.

"The exploration permits, which require drilling a risky exploration well, are reckless,'' said Mr Hughes.

Mr Hughes said New Zealand's identified 5500 tonne oil spill response capability would not be sufficient to deal with a leak from an exploratory deep sea well at these depths.

"The Deep Water Horizon exploratory well was 1500 meters and it leaked more than 600,000 tonnes.''

Mr Heatley said if a leak happened Maritime New Zealand would respond with equipment onshore and would have equipment on call offshore as part of a response.

Mr Hughes said it would take four to six weeks for a relief rig to arrive in New Zealand and asked the minister during question time if New Zealand would have a second rig on stand-by during deep sea drilling operations.

"The exploration companies who are experts in this field are best placed to put a response plan in position - that will be run over by experts within various Government departments,'' said Mr Heatley.

Mr Hughes delivered a petition with 142,000 signatures calling on the Government to halt all dangerous offshore oil drilling and stop expansion of coal mining in New Zealand.

Mr Heatley said New Zealand needed the jobs from deep sea oil drilling.

"It will not create heaps of jobs, most of the profits go offshore to foreign companies and our royalty levels are very low,'' said Mr Hughes.

- APNZ

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