Protecting the seabed and foreshore

Written By: - Date published: 9:34 am, October 19th, 2016 - 7 comments
Categories: activism, climate change, energy, Environment, foreshore and seabed, Maori Issues - Tags: , , , , , , , ,

On Waitangi Day last year constitutional and Treaty lawyer Moana Jackson talked about how one of the reasons the Crown passed the 2004 Foreshore and Seabed legislation was because they knew that while Māori had the seabed and foreshore it would not be exploited and polluted (video, starts at 1 min 20). Māori at the time were called alarmist for raising the issues of what would happen if the government took ownership. Within one month of the legislation being passed the govt leased the first seabed drilling licence.

Fast forward a decade and the world is heating up. Deepwater Horizon has happened, as has the Rena oil spill. What was once acceptable is no longer, and more and more people reject the notion that spilling oil into the environment is a price we must pay. As with the North Dakota Standing Rock water protectors, the activism in NZ against deep sea oil drilling is multi-faceted and includes climate action, local environmental protection and assertion of indigenous rights.

Following on from last week’s sudden departure from Northland by Norwegian oil company Statoil, veteran Māori rights campaigner Mike Smith describes the strategies used by Northland communities after Statoil first came to town, and signals what is to come next,

The first we heard of the Statoil exploration permit was when the Government announced it as part of their programme to support fossil fuel extraction by international oil companies.

Inspired by the successful campaign by Te Whānau-ā-Apanui and Greenpeace to stop ultra deep oil drilling in the Raukumara basin off the East Cape, and the Anadarko operation off the coast of Taranaki, we immediately began organising in Northland.

A series of public meetings were held across the region, from which a number of community based anti-oil drilling groups emerged in Kaitaia, Hokianga and Whangarei.

Meetings were held with the relevant local iwi authorities to establish their formal positions on the issue and to further analyse the business and activity of deep water drilling. As a result Ngati Kuri, Ngati Kahu and Te Rarawa declared their formal opposition to it.

Over ten thousand fact sheets were produced and distributed at major events in the region, including Waitangi Day, and the Ngapuhi festival.

And then further significant local community led organising began to occur.

Signs and billboards started appearing all over Northland. Local iwi media began regular reporting on the issue, and a range of community meetings and events kicked off. This included hikoi mobilisations, open-air concerts, hands across the sands events, banners on the beach and volatile public meetings with representatives of Statoil.

Our strategy had a number of objectives:

Develop public awareness of the scope and nature of ultra deep water drilling

Dispel the myths and propaganda of the oil industry.

Withdraw the social license of Iwi and local communities.

Undermine international shareholder confidence amongst the owners of Statoil.

Initiate legal challenges to Statoil’s activities through both domestic jurisdictions within Aotearoa and within Norway itself.

Internationalise the pressure on Statoil by aligning with other indigenous campaigns targeting Statoil. Position Aotearoa as one of the least desirable locations to conduct oil drilling.

When Statoil began its seismic surveying of the permit area off the West Coast of Northland, their survey vessel was intercepted at sea by the ocean going waka hourua “Haunui” and told to withdraw from tribal waters.

Mandated by the Ahipara Komiti Takutaimoana marine protection group, a delegation then travelled to Norway to engage with the local Sami indigenous people and to attend the annual Statoil shareholders meeting and to put the owners on notice that their investment in Aotearoa would be met by stiff resistance.By early 2016, the perfect storm of negative operating conditions for Statoil that we had anticipated began to emerge.

The international oil price plunged.

Social opposition within Aotearoa was steadily escalating.

Maori and local body opposition was getting more strident.

The Sami Parliament was expressing its concerns about Statoil directly to the company within Norway.

The climate movement and public discourse was increasingly identifying fossil fuels as the main global contributor to climate change.

And then… Kaboom! Expectantly, and on the eve of a presidential delegation from the Sami Parliament arriving in Aotearoa to engage with Maori leadership, and coinciding with a landmark legal challenge to Statoil on breach of its constitution, Statoil announced the surrender of its permit in Northland.

Full post here.

While Statoil and Chevron are still exploring in the waters off the East Coast environmentalists in the Northern Hemisphere are suing Statoil’s largest shareholder, the Norwegian Government, for breaching the Paris Agreement by allowing drilling for new oil in the Arctic Barents Sea. The NZ Government continues to push out permits including off the coast of Oamaru and inland Southland.

Greenpeace are scaling up and have called for a Summer of Action.

Cape Reinga (via Lonely Planet)

Cape Reinga (via Lonely Planet)

7 comments on “Protecting the seabed and foreshore”

  1. adam 1

    Action and organisation, this is the life blood of the left.

    Look at the positive results that come from it. If you listened to the beltway wonks it a be about policy, taxes and elections. It’s not. It’s about fighting the good fight and taking back our world one step at a time.

    Democracy means not letting the idiots win!

    Great post weka, keep them coming.

    • gsays 1.1

      “It’s about fighting the good fight and taking back our world one step at a time. ”

      spot on, the irony is when the people move the ‘leaders’ will follow.

  2. Tino pai rawa te mahi ra! Massive effort from the North. That’s a model to use elsewhere, everywhere. The Beast the Eats the Environment never sleeps, but it’s thinner now, having been starved in the North.

  3. Sans Cle 3

    Another great post. Really encouraging. Great to see the links with Sami who have been fighting the good fight for decades. Indeed they became politically mobilized in the face of oil exploration on their land and then formed their own parliament. Great to hear about such positive international collaboration.

  4. Ad 4

    Greenpeace et al are pushing an open door.

    Almost all oil majors worldwide have shut untested exploration down.

    Nothing to do with protest, everything to do with price and peak supply.

    • adam 4.1

      Evidence for your claims there Ad?

      Mind you irrelevant, as the on going exploration in Southland, and off the North Otago coast do need to be opposed.

    • left_forward 4.2

      Your open door pushing metaphor would only make sense if the major oil companies agreed with Greenpeace about the imperative of protecting the environment.
      But this story is about Northland’s successful grassroots community action against the threat of deep sea oil extraction in the Reinga basin, At no time did that ever feel like anything other than pushing against a door that was firmly closed by the very powerful interests of Government and Statoil.

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