Oil giant Statoil met with the community at Kaitaia on June 9.
The public meeting at Te Ahu Centre was planned as the first time the company that was granted a 15-year exploration permit for the Reinga-Northland Offshore Release Area in the New Zealand Block Offer 2013 was to meet with a worried public.
While the oil company says it will not begin exploration in 2014 it will proceed with preliminary work. In the first part of the work programme Statoil will conduct a research survey, mapping the seabed in their permit area approximately 100 kilometres from shore. "Basically, we are using advanced sonar to create a detailed map of the seabed. This is part of our early preparations to ensure safe and effective operations," spokesperson Knut Rostad says.
Greenpeace uses different language, saying the exploration has begun. Statoil has contracted NIWA research vessel Tangaroa after $24 million of taxpayer money was used to upgrade technology on board to carry out oil exploration.
"Beyond the horizon of the stunning coastline of Kaipara, Hokianga, Te Oneroa-a-Tohe/90 Mile Beach and Te Rerenga Wairua/Cape Reinga, research vessel Tangaroa is currently carrying out the initial stages of oil exploration. This coastline would be the most affected if there was an oil spill," a media release says.
"An oil spill would be a catastrophe for the environment, our livelihoods and the economy. Government should be investing in New Zealand's multi-billion dollar clean energy and innovation sectors not in foreign oil drilling," Greenpeace Climate and Energy campaigner Mike Smith says.
Statoil says its current work is no different to work that has been conducted by others around the country for the past several years and does not signify the beginning of exploration off Northland's coast.
"Statoil is committed to collect new 2D seismic data and to undertake a multibeam seafloor survey with selected core samples within the first three years. Following an analysis and interpretation of this data, Statoil will decide on further steps," Rostad says.
- Northern News