Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Oil-drilling support slipping, poll finds

Minister says Government must work harder to make Kiwis see merits of its ‘arrow in the economic quiver’

Beach protests, including this one at Ahipara in Northland, greeted the start of deep sea drilling. Photo / Greenpeace
Beach protests, including this one at Ahipara in Northland, greeted the start of deep sea drilling. Photo / Greenpeace

There is increased opposition to the Government's plans for oil, gas and mineral exploration in the latest Herald-DigiPoll survey - although nearly 60 per cent of respondents still support it.

The poll showed 58 per cent of respondents strongly or cautiously supported the mining plans - but that figure has dropped from 67 per cent when the same question was asked in June 2012.

The number strongly opposing increased from 17 per cent to 27 per cent over the same period. A further 11 per cent said they were leaning towards opposing it.

Despite the shift, Energy Minister Simon Bridges said the poll showed the majority of New Zealanders saw value in the mining plans.

"That doesn't surprise me," he said. "But there's no question we should work harder to persuade a higher number of Kiwis about the strong rationale for what we are doing. Here is one of the arrows in our economic quiver."

Green MP Gareth Hughes said the increase in opposition was because Anadarko had started work on exploratory drilling, making it a reality and boosting nervousness about an oil spill.

"We've seen Anadarko arrive ... and Kiwis know the risk of oil washing up on our beaches is real. The process is a mess and the oil spill response plans are a joke."

Labour's economic development spokesman Shane Jones said the increase in opposition showed the Government and Mr Bridges were failing to properly counter a "sophisticated anti-campaign".

"Politics, unfortunately, is as much about heat as it is about light. There is no light emanating from the Government, but there is considerable heat being generated by New Zealand. If that is allowed to drift, the largely ill-informed public can be swayed by fear mongering."

Mr Bridges said a comprehensive range of checks and balances had been set up. The Government was ensuring responsibility for any spills was on the company involved.

"We are very clear there needs to be the highest health and safety and environmental practice. There's no room for cowboys."

He was satisfied with Anadarko's plans, as well as the capacity of Maritime NZ in dealing with an emergency if there was a delay in Anadarko implementing its response.

Since the Rena grounding off Tauranga in October 11, there had been significant investment in resourcing and training for Maritime NZ.

Anadarko's exploratory drilling off the Raglan coast began in November, prompting protests including a flotilla and Oil Free Seas protests at beaches such as Raglan and Piha.

Greenpeace has also begun legal action against the Environmental Protection Agency and Anadarko over whether the company should be allowed to drill in the Taranaki Basin.

The poll of 750 voters was conducted between December 9 and 17 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 per cent.

Herald-DigiPoll survey

Which best fits your view about the Government's aim to increase oil, gas and mineral exploration in NZ?

• Support it because it could greatly help NZ's economic growth - 27.5%

• Cautiously supportive - 31%

• Lean towards opposing - 11%

• Strongly oppose as it threatens to damage NZ's environment - 27%

• Don't know/refused - 3%

- Survey of 750 people from Dec 9 to 17. Margin of error +/- 3.6%

- NZ Herald

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