Two days after the IPCC has warned of the dangers posed by climate change and this Government has announced proposals to open up much of New Zealand’s territorial area for exploratory oil drilling. The timing shows either either stunning ineptitude or extreme belligerence.
National yesterday reaffirmed what is effectively its only economic policy apart from trickle down, and that is drill baby drill. It released its 2014 block offer of areas for exploratory drilling and an area one and a half times the size of New Zealand’s land mass is available for oil companies to seek the right to drill into.
It consulted previously on what areas should be included and what conditions should be applied. 433 thousand square kilometres of area was up for investigation, following analysis of the submissions that figure has been reduced slightly to 405 thousand square kilometres.
It seems the Herald has missed the boat on the issue. It posted the New Caledonian Basin block offer map to suggest what was up for tendering and the map used does not look so bad. The New Caledonial Basin block looks like this:
But the Herald did not display the Reinga Block offer which is also on offer and which is much more relevant to Aucklanders. This area looks like this:
You have to wonder why the Herald decided to choose a map that did not show Aucklanders that exploratory oil wells may be popping up within visual sight of the West Coast.
The consultation has resulted in some areas being withdrawn from consideration. But Auckland’s West Coast? Despite its immense beauty and despite it being a habit for the extremely endangered Maui’s dolphin the available area has not changed from the draft and requested enhancements have not been approved.
To be frank Auckland Council dropped the ball when considering what to submit and apart from wanting to exclude coastal waters for the protection of Maui’s dolphin its submission was somewhat insipid. It expressed general support for the proposal although it requested that the 6 nautical mile exploration free zone from the coast be extended to 12 nautical miles. It suggested that any activities adhered to DOC’s guidelines for minimising acoustic disturbance to marine mammals and asked the Government to take action to ensure that risks of oil spills and other discharges are minimised, particularly in areas close to the coast.
There was only one vote against the proposal, that of Cathy Casey. Well done Cathy.
The Waitakere Ranges Local Board, of which I am a proud member, was more staunch. We believed that the area should not potentially be part of an oil field.
The Officials advising Simon Bridges summarised our submission as follows:
The submission from the Waitākere Ranges Local Board opposes the allocation of petroleum permits off the western coastline of Auckland. It opposes the allocation of petroleum permits due to the risk of oils spills, the disturbance caused to the seabed and coastal marine area, and the negative effect of discharges and noises related to petroleum exploration activities.
The submission also notes that much of the coast is part of the Waitākere Ranges Heritage Area, and that the coastal marine area in question contains a number of important ecological features.
The Waitākere Ranges Local Board also notes in its submission that the coastal area is home to the endangered Māui’s dolphin, as well as a marine mammal sanctuary, and that this area contains important populations of fish, shell-fish and seabirds. They also note the important recreation value of this area.
Finally the submission notes that the terrain of the area means there is limited access to the coast, which could be problematic in the event of any land-based oil spill response.
How were our submissions treated? The officers recommended no change to the area and thought that existing protections are adequate and that the details concerning seismic activity would not threaten Maui’s dolphin. I hope they are right. If for instance there was an oil spill then some of the world’s most picturesque beaches could be ruined.
Simon Bridges was interviewed. Watch the video and wonder why he should be entrusted with a decision making ability on behalf of New Zealand Aotearoa.
The Greens have rightfully wondered why he should be Associate Minister in charge of Climate Change issues. It speaks volumes of this Government that someone who is so pro drilling should be in charge of our response to what is this world’s biggest environmental threat.