Seventy people, most with tape across their mouths but making a racket by beating on pots and pans, descended on Parliament yesterday to protest a last-minute law change by the Government which could deny the public a say on exploratory deep sea oil drilling.

The Government last week announced proposals to allow applications for exploratory oil and gas drilling applications to be handled by the Environmental Protection Agency as a "non notified" activity which does not require the agency to seek public input.

The change is being done via a supplementary order paper to the Marine Legislation Bill which means it will not receive select committee scrutiny.

Protest organiser Ashley Gross of environmental group 350 Aotearoa said the Government was claiming exploratory drilling needed to be fast-tracked because the existing consent process was too expensive for oil companies and the drilling was a short-term activity taking only four to six weeks.


"We're saying that's ridiculous and doesn't take into account the amount of risk and potential damage."

Ms Gross said the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 was during the drilling of an exploratory well.

"There needs to be a real public discussion before risking our fishing industry, our beaches, our tourist industry," she said.

"We've put tape across our mouths but we're still making a lot of noise.

"Even if the Government tries to stop public submissions on deep sea oil drilling we'll still find a way to have a voice."