A ban on deep sea drilling and compulsory shipping lanes for coastal shipping are among the proposals announced by the Greens today to protect New Zealand beaches from oil spills.
The policy was unveiled by Green Party co-leader Russel Norman, who said the party also wants to build Maritime New Zealand's oil spill response capability and to legislate to make sure that when spills do occur, it is not taxpayers footing the bill.
"New Zealanders love our beaches and want them open for swimming, not closed for oil spills," Norman said.
Past-times such as fishing and surfing were being put at risk by the opening up of New Zealand's coastline for oil exploration, and National had also failed to take steps to ensure there was not another shipping accident like the sinking of the Rena, he said.
Maritime New Zealand did not have the capacity to deal with spills, the risk increased with deeper water and the practice needed to be stopped, he said.
Speaking in Piha this morning, Norman said if a spill occurred off Auckland's west coast, up to 10,000 barrels of oil could be spilled into the sea a day. It was likely a relief well would have to be drilled to stop the leak with the equipment having to be sourced from overseas, which could take weeks.
"Meanwhile, every day, more oil is pouring into the water."
Norman said that in the Gulf of Mexico, one in 272 wells in shallow water has had a spill compared with one in 19 for deep sea drilling.
Nearly 50,000 qualified people responded to the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, while New Zealand only had about 400 people trained, he said.
Deep sea drilling would create few jobs for New Zealanders, and New Zealand's clean green reputation was too important to tarnish, he said.
The focus should be on building a clean, green economy, he said.
"Deep sea drilling is not worth the risk. While there may be some economic benefits to deep sea drilling, they don't justify risking a huge spill that could cost us billions," Norman said.
"Like New Zealand chose to go nuclear free, we can add to our national environmental identity by also being deep sea oil free."
The New Zealand Maritime Union has expressed its support for the Green's proposal to implement compulsory shipping lanes.
National Secretary Joe Fleetwood said there had been 35 "near miss" incidents since the Rena grounding in 2011 and it was only a matter of time before another grounding occurs.
"The large number of foreign flag of convenience vessels on the New Zealand coast together with the enormous pressure put on ships' officers and crews for fast turnaround requires immediate action to prevent a future disaster."
Compulsory shipping lanes were already in place in nations including the UK, Norway and Canada.
Measures to ensure the oil industry had to pay for any spills and efforts to improve the capability of Maritime New Zealand were also overdue, he said.
Comment has been sought from Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee.
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