Drillers say case could cost NZ

Greenpeace's deliberately delayed court bid to stop Texas oil giant Anadarko's $1.44 million-a-day drilling in New Zealand will create unwanted regulatory and commercial uncertainty, the company's lawyer says.

Yesterday Greenpeace said the Government's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) failed in approving an impact assessment report for Anadarko without considering several key documents.

It took its case to the High Court at Wellington after filing for an urgent judicial review which it hoped would force a Government U-Turn on the oil consent.

The application was filed after the exploration ship Noble Bob Douglas had already begun drilling off the Waikato coast late last month.

Anadarko lawyer Michael Colson said the Greenpeace action was deliberately delayed and quite coincidental.

The EPA had already approved Anadarko's impact assessment report two months earlier, on September 26, which was available to Greenpeace and would have been open to action from then.

He said Anadarko had a 54 per cent interest in the operation, which had already cost US$190m (NZ$230m) for petroleum permits and would cost up to $360m all going well, he said.

It was expected to be completed by February 6 next year but any delay might see Anadarko's permit revoked, as it had until the end of May to complete the project.

Colson said the decision in this case could impact on future investment in New Zealand, as companies wanted regulatory and commercial certainty before committing to big projects.

Greenpeace lawyer Issac Hikaka had argued the EPA had not considered several key reports, including documents modelling an oil spill and emergency plans to deal with a slick.

This information was available but not supplied to the EPA, because it did not ask for it, he said.

The impact assessment report also did not model a potential oil spill going away from New Zealand's shore and into international waters. "What it lacks is sufficient detail."

Hikaka said the case was about the EPA's role, not whether oil drilling was good or bad.

EPA lawyer Paul Radich said Greenpeace's case was one of "form over content" and it believed it covered everything which needed to be covered "in a form it was satisfied with".

Justice Alan MacKenzie said the EPA's case was the risk of an oil spill would be the responsibility of others. But he questioned if the risk to the environment should form part of EPA's evaluative process.

Radich said the EPA was concerned with all potential effects that would be known to an operator, intended or unintended.

Justice Mackenzie reserved his decision yesterday, and said he would deliver his judgment as quickly as possible.