Petroleum conference to return to New Plymouth despite hundreds of protesters derailing first day

Police awaited the arrival of petroleum conference delegates and protesters at the TSB Stadium Wednesday night.
GRANT MATTHEW/Fairfax NZ

Police awaited the arrival of petroleum conference delegates and protesters at the TSB Stadium Wednesday night.

Despite massive disruption caused by protesters at the first day of the New Zealand Petroleum Conference in New Plymouth, organisers have ended the event by announcing they will be coming back next year.  

Delegates to the conference had to be smuggled into the conference through back doors and side entrances on Wednesday after a well organised protest presence prevented them getting through the front doors.

The protest was supposed to be peaceful but things turned ugly with protesters hurling themselves at barricades and police forcibly removing many who blocked entrance ways.

At least 200 protesters disrupted the conference on Wednesday, delaying the start and resulting in some delegates having ...
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ

At least 200 protesters disrupted the conference on Wednesday, delaying the start and resulting in some delegates having to be smuggled inside the event venue.

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The protests continued into the night with a  "wall of noise" at the entrance of the TSB Stadium in an unsuccessful bid to thwart the Petroleum Conference Awards.

On Thursday Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New Zealand (Pepanz) chief executive Cameron Madgwick said despite the protests the conference would be back in New Plymouth in 2018.

Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New Zealand (Pepanz)  chief executive Cameron Madgwick awarded Shell ...
Robert Charles/FAIRFAX NZ

Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New Zealand (Pepanz) chief executive Cameron Madgwick awarded Shell Todd Oil Services for the largest seismic survey ever performed in New Zealand at the conference gala dinner on Wednesday evening.

But he won't be the only one. Emily Bailey, the spokeswoman for the People's Climate Rally, the coalition of environmental groups that so successfully protested the conference's first day, said protesters would also return.

"Our climate protectors have already agreed that we will continue to shut down fossil fuel conferences no matter where they hide and we will be working hard to ensure there are no Block Offers at all next year," she said. 

The second and final day of the conference began with a whimper as police patrolled empty streets surrounding the TSB Showplace conference venue, where protesters were expected to be.

The New Zealand Petroleum Conference 2017 was held in New Plymouth and will return next year.
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ

The New Zealand Petroleum Conference 2017 was held in New Plymouth and will return next year.

Delegates greeted each other with a sigh of relief and commented that it was a lot easier to get inside compared to the day before.

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Thursday began with keynote speaker Iain Stewart, University of Plymouth geoscience communication and BBC series Planet Oil presenter, who spoke on how the science community needed to connect with the public to dispel myths and ease unrest.

He said the general public severely misunderstood the petroleum industry and sought information that reinforced their beliefs.

"People over-estimate the hazards and people are angry," he said.

"But it's the science community who failed to properly educate and communicate the technical science."

Those in the petroleum industry were well aware of climate change and agreed with the utilisation of renewable resources, but the reality was "the very use of oil defines us", Stewart said.

"We only go into the community when we need to and we need to go into the community all the time."

At the same time as delegates were gathering for Thursday's conference events, the protest coalition held a gathering of their own.

Held at the Senior Citizens Hall, The People's Choice Rally displayed an electric car and discussed what a transition to clean energy could look like.

Bailey said the solutions were already available.

"We just need the willpower to make it mainstream before climate change is unstoppable."

 - Stuff

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