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Stunning nature

Written By: - Date published: 7:00 am, May 27th, 2017 - 31 comments
Categories: climate change, Conservation, energy, Environment, Mining, peak oil - Tags: , , , ,

Director of Greenpeace Russell Norman said recently that if we want to prevent the worst of climate change we can’t afford to burn the fossil fuels we already have access to, so why go look for more?

Gareth Hughes from the Green Party was in Te Anau last month talking to locals and checking out the area within the newly released Western Southland Basin oil exploration block. He made a short video,

I disagree with Hughes about the tourism angle. Industrial tourism is also a threat to the environment. Directly from development and indirectly (thus far) from climate change, to which tourism is a contributor not just from international flights, but from internal travel and infrastructure and resource use. Nature deserves to be protected for its own sake. We put it at risk when we frame the protection around something as transient as the tourism industry.

But the general gist is that we have to protect these places and we have to stop burning fossil fuels. They go hand in hand.

The Western Southland Basin block map is here. The area butts up against the south east edge of Lake Te Anau and takes in the Te Anau Basin, the lower reaches of the Waiau River, and a big chunk of the plains north of Invercargill that includes the catchments of the Aparima, Oreti and Makarewa Rivers . You can scroll around the area in this map.

So what’s the risk here? Energy Minister Judith Collins says that no oil exploration is allowed close to a National Park or World Heritage Area. Which is technically kind of true, in that Lake Te Anau itself isn’t part of Fiordland National Park. That’s alright then Judith.

One of the things that stands out for me is the sheer amount of water in the area. Not only is there Lake Te Anau and the Waiau River, but the Southland Plains are essentially a system of creeks and rivers and remnant wetlands.

There’s more to understand here. Where are the likely places to be drilled? Will there be fracking? Where are the earthquake faults and what are the risks? Will Southlanders have choices about what happens under their land? What consents and permits will be needed from local authorities and is there a conflict between that and council investments in fossil fuels and the push to divest? Who would pay for environmental damage? Would it be fixable?

Are there conflicts between being a pro-exploration council and Environment Southland’s intended Southland Water and Land Plan?

This Plan recognises the national significance of Te Mana o te Wai, which puts the mauri (inherent health) of the waterbody and its ability to provide for te hauora o te tangata (the health of the people), te hauora o te taiao (health of the environment) and te hauora o te wai (the health of the waterbody) to the forefront of freshwater management.

Ultimately the issue centres on the point of tension between saving the places we love as we move to zero carbon, and the last but potentially vicious gasps from a dying fossil fuel industry and the people who support money over life. Will Southland be deemed unviable or will it become a battleground as fossil fuels become harder and harder to source? How much energy will get wasted in that battle is also a concern, and how long do we have to keep litigating these matters when the climate change storm is already on our doorsteps?

For those that don’t know the Deep South, here are some of the more picturesque parts of Southland that are within the oil exploration block.

Rakatu Wetlands

Fishing on the Waiau River

Te Waewae Bay and lower Waiau River area

Upper Aparima River (photo Zsuzsanna Worth)


31 comments on “Stunning nature ”

  1. Foreign waka 1

    I don’t understand this government. NZ is (has) a couple of islands. We cannot afford to become another Nauru.
    Now we have farmers who belief all of the land is theirs, including the water that runs through it. Next are corps in line who take the water that does not run trough farmland at no cost and sell it back to us (the irony should not go amiss). Now the rest of the land and surrounding sea that is close to conservation or even under protection is considered for mining and oil drilling.
    Either NZ is close to bankruptcy and no one is willing to tell anybody or it finally can permanently install a banjo player at each international airport. Something does not make sense. I belief it is time that the next generation sets the standard because the old guard runs out of ideas, hung up in the “good ol’ days” where the cans of beer flew out the windows of cars with black smoke coming out the exhaust whilst driving through the countryside.

    Te Anau area for Oil drilling/mining? I cannot belief the stupidity, it just is mind blowing – absolute gobsmacked. Who ever proposes this needs to be removed from office.

  2. So shortsighted so criminal. These politicans and their exploitative mates deserve our contempt.

  3. Jenny Kirk 3

    Totally agree with you all. I cannot understand this govt either – its lunacy at its worst.
    We have battles against similar proposals up here in the north ….. ours are not on National Parks or fiords – but will have the same devastating effects throughout the region. It’s like this govt is just selling up/ leasing out/ getting rid of everything that is Aotearoa-New Zealand in a desperate attempt before the election.

  4. Tautoko Mangō Mata 4

    Tell everyone you know about this. Show them the map*. Ask them is this OK with them? This is what the protest (which I attended) was about at New Plymouth Mar 22- the NAct govt opening its block offer for 2017 at the oil conference.
    National MUST be voted out. AOTEAROA IS NOT FOR SALE.

    Block Offer 2017 tender opened
    22 March 2017
    Energy and Resources Minister Judith Collins has opened the Block Offer 2017 tender for petroleum exploration permits.

    Block Offer 2018 Nominations are now open
    22 March 2017
    Minister of Energy and Resources Judith Collins has opened industry nominations for Block Offer 2018.


    *Map link

  5. saveNZ 5

    Totally agree we should be preserving the environment for it’s own sake.

    If the government does want to put everything in money terms, here’s a good perspective from Rayon Kan, with the wise perspective, water is more important than oil, “lets see who get’s thirsty first”.

    Raybon Kan: Let’s drink to the wealth we’ve ignored


    If our government insists on polluting our water supplies and then pay industry to ‘unpollute’ it or pay a private company to buy back our own water in a plastic bottle. That’s the National way. Take public assets, privatise, sell back worse resource, at profit.

  6. It’s possible to drill sideways,up to 12km from the entry point. Not setting up rigs in National Parks? Set them up on the periphery. Already, the regional council is fully engaged in “holding the line” with water quality. How will adding high-use gas and oil extraction processes help that?

  7. millsy 7

    A saving grace is that with low oil prices, I doubt that oil companies will think there is enough of the black stuff down there to profitably extract.

    National has thrown the gates open, and promised a tidal wave of cash because the oil men will turn up, make a pin prick, and texas tea will come squirting out.

    The few oil people that came drilled and couldn’t find anything worth getting out.

    I would go out on a limb and say that the only profitable wells in the country are already in production.

    There is supposedly a huge shitload of oil south of Steward Island, but there hasnt been any takers to drill it, probably because the costs of getting it are too high.

    • weka 7.1

      You might be right about Southland, but I think the concern is that once the pressure is on from dwindling easy access supplies, the consents are already in place. Plus exploration is not a benign activity even if they never get to extraction. And then we have to do all the protest and activism just in case.

  8. Drowsy M. Kram 8

    The National Party had several failed runs at asset sales before they finally got the numbers (and a popular figurehead) required to ram them through without serious political damage. What needs to be highlighted is that, despite promises in the last election campaign, public asset sales have continued.

    The TPPA is still a live issue – there is enough voter uncertainty about its value to NZers (and it is firmly associated with the discredited Key) for the NZ left parties to pull some votes – National will just keep hammering away.

    Likewise with extractive industries in areas that should be left alone. In 2010 the Nats under Key had an early run at mining in conservation land.


    And because most voters forget and/or are easily distracted, National and their very wealthy mates will just keep trying:

    “Because they loved their money more than anything in the whole world.”

    • saveNZ 8.1

      Exactly, a vote for National and the Maori party is a vote for TPPA and putting NZ future into the hands of international business courts and off shore corporations.

      It’s crazy unless, you are a Nat. Even most Natz supporters don’t see anything good in TPPA and that was when the USA was there!

      Offshore corporations are not buying the exports, they are buying the assets. Why buy the milk, when you can buy the farm?

      Look what has happened with Cadbury and Silver Fern farms. Lay offs and plant closures. That is what we have to look forward to, under the National government.

  9. What are Māori saying about this – there are strong Māori down there who are kaitiaki – any links appreciated – on phone so not so easy to search and so on.

    • Ngai Tahu have developed huge dairy farms on on sensitive Canterbury soils where plantation forests once grew. They’re seemingly keen to establish marine farms in the fiords.
      Go figure…

      • marty mars 9.1.1

        Go figure what

        • Robert Guyton

          The meaning of kaitiakitanga.

          • marty mars

            What do you know that you think Kāi Tahu and the rūnanga don’t?

            • Robert Guyton

              I think it’s possible for any person, anywhere to connect with kaitiakitanga, if they have the nature for it. I measure the actions of others against my own standard and it’s one that I work on constantly, refining and testing it against the actions and words of others. Do you think, Marty, that it’s possible for someone to know more about dairy farming, soil types, the effects of nitrates on the environment etc, than do the Kai Tahu decision-makers? My feelings about converting arid land in Canterbury to irrigated dairy farms are not the same as theirs, it seems, therefore I have concerns.

              • No, just because someone says they know what kaitiakitanga is doesn’t mean that they do. It is arrogance for someone to think they know better because? It fits into their view of the word or their worldview in general. Your measure is just that – your one, no better or worse than another.

                I also worry about the avatar/Celtic – you poor dim natives don’t worry follow us we know the way and can help you because it looks like you don’t even know what is good for yourself.

                Your final point is interesting – ‘know’ relates to context. Yes in a holistic cultural interelatedness context Kāi Tahu people could ‘know’ more than a scientist or keen reader.

                • weka

                  I have some concerns about what Ngāi Tahu Holdings are doing myself, but I think what you two are arguing about is cultural differences in how kaitiakitanga is understood. Personally I don’t think Pākehā should be using that term through their own cultural framework, we have other words we can use to good effect.

                  I also am less inclined to go as hard out critical against NTH, or Kāi Tahu at least, as I am against tau iwi diary companies, given Kāi Tahu are still trying to re-establish wellbeing for their people after a really long period of colonisation. So, sure let’s criticise the business side for industrial dairy, but I don’t see how Kāi Tahu are any more responsible for that than say Southlanders are for the actions (or inactions) of Environment Southland 😉 (That’s not an exact comparison obviously, but a point made).

                  “because it looks like you don’t even know what is good for yourself.”

                  I think Kāi Tahu excels at looking after its people. There is also a conflict between that and some environmental concerns. In some ways I don’t see it as too different from the conflict between Pākehā ecological types and Pākehā society, but I think there are things there for Pākehā to learn esp in regards to how to look after people first. Pākehā NZ failing on both fronts except for small enclaves.

                  • For me it sounds like – yes we in the west have used all the resources and polluted to ensure our middle class lifestyles are maintained and yes we accept the human slave labour and misery as a cost others have had to pay for us to have our stuff – but the utter temerity of you third world peoples wanting the same stuff as us now and putting the whole world at risk through pollution and other bad things, well it disgusts me, you are selfish.

                    I dont agree with more dairy farms and if we to have them then small ones suit me and if not then a group that publically commits to best environmental practice and monitoring is what we can get, then okay. Much better than the current environmental approach of many industrial farmers.

                  • That’s fair, weka, my language was loose. I meant those in Ngai Tahu who made the decision to develop those dairy farms. I wasn’t meaning to include pakiaka harakeke and others in the claim.

                • No? Sweet, I’ll not use the word, “kaitiakitanga” because it’s a Maori word – presumably I oughtn’t to use any Maori word at all, given I’m tauiwi not Māori an indigenous person of these islands. Makes communication difficult though and means my years of interest in and learning of te reo Māori indigenous New Zealander language are somewhat redundant now. Hei aha! whatever, so be it. Still, I do know something of dairying and water quality issues, so as long as I don’t mention Ngai Tahu the dominant South Island iwi tribe, I’ll perhaps have something to contribute to the discussion.

                  • weka

                    Are you talking to marty or me? Because that’s not what I said at all.

                    • Sorry, weka, yes, I was addressing, vainly I expect, Marty. I don’t expect to make much progress, as Marty’s views seem to be loaded heavily and triggered easily, creating some weighty and complex responses to simple ideas; nothing wrong with that, of course, but I’m not of a mind to argue with someone whose opinion I respect.

                  • It’s not what I said either

                    • Okay then. On “kaitiakitanga” you said:
                      “Your measure is just that – your one, no better or worse than another.”

                      I don’t hold to that idea. I believe there are people with views and behaviours that are bringing the ecosystem we rely upon crashing down around us and at the same time there are those whose behaviour is attempting to do the opposite; that is, some humans are actively trying to restore the damage done and enliven the physical environment. Whether that makes one group “better or worse than another” is moot, but I know which group I strive to be part of.
                      I said, “I think it’s possible for any person, anywhere to connect with kaitiakitanga, if they have the nature for it. ”
                      and you responded;
                      “No, just because someone says they know what kaitiakitanga is doesn’t mean that they do.”
                      I think your most recent comment at 1:31pm applies.

                    • I am not interested in a Barney with you Robert.

                      However I do want to say

                      People thinking they know what’s best for others and nature, whether their intention be good or evil, are the cause of many of our problems.

  10. Who then, marty, should make a call? No one?

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