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Protest on beaches

HANNAH MORRIS
Last updated 05:00 27/11/2013
Oil Protests
Malcolm Pullman

ONE VOICE: Protesters take a stand for oil-free seas at Ripiro Beach as part of Banners on the Beach national protest on Saturday.

Oil Protests
Malcolm Pullman
OIL FREE: A deep sea oil drilling protester makes a point on Ripiro Beach on Saturday.

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Jobs or the environment?

That's the question Dargaville surfer and anti offshore oil drilling lobbyist Nick Matich is urging people to consider as Texan oil company Anakardo prepares to do exploratory work off the coast of Raglan.

The Queen Elizabeth Trust's Kaipara representative is among those who gathered at Riporo Beach on Sunday to protest against the move.

Mr Matich, who has a background working in the oil industry, says the bad outweighs the good.

"It creates a lot of employment, sure. But it all boils down to whether you can trust the mechanics and science of deep sea oil drilling, which is practically untested," he says.

The weekend gathering was part of the nationwide Banners on the Beach protest organised by Greenpeace and promoted via Facebook.

An estimated 3000 people took part on west coast beaches and posted photographs and comments online. About 30 people turned up at Ripiro Beach.

"I think we would have had a lot more if more people had known about it," Mr Matich says. "But it was a reasonable turnout, with quite a few banners.

"There were good discussions had, and finally people were seeing that there were others concerned about the same thing."

National campaign project assistant Robin Wilson-Whiting says the the protest showed solidarity.

"The point of it was to have a line of defence on the coast," she says.

"We can't stop the oil drilling from happening, but the idea was to communicate to the rest of the country that there is a big chunk of people who do not accept the idea."

Prime Minister John Key spoke on RadioLive on Monday morning and doesn't think the number of people worried about the safety of deep-sea drilling is high.

"There are people who are genuinely confused by the data and what they're told," he says.

He admits there is a risk in the operation, but says it is extremely remote.

"Technology has changed a lot, we have higher standards in New Zealand. I've seen what it would actually take for there to be a major problem, and there's an awful lot of things that would have to go wrong at the same time."

Petroleum Exploration and Production Association NZ chief executive officer David Robinson says the industry operates under world class standards, and Kiwis need to have a "mature debate" about its energy options as a country.

"We know we still have a lot of work to do to provide people with responsible information, to give them confidence we operate safely, to the highest standards, under robust regulations."

The licence to conduct drilling off Raglan ends on February 14.

Protesters have banded together on the water as members of the Oil Free Seas Flotilla.

Spokeswoman Anna Horne says the regulations on oil spills have been lightened up over the years, and any spill in Kaipara could have devastating effects.

"Because of the currents and prevailing winds, a leak would impact over a number of weeks on to the west coast. It would be pretty serious, it could have a big affect on fishing for example.

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"The government is so committed to this dinosaur thinking of oil and extraction - it is just not getting the point about climate change. The extreme drilling really concerns us, especially as the science comes in on global temperatures," she says.

- Dargaville News

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