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Making a stand on the sand

MICHAEL FORBES
Last updated 08:54 19/05/2013
Oil protest
PHIL REID/Wellington

JOINING FORCES: Protesters at Oriental Bay yesterday joined hands in a symbolic act against offshore drilling.

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Wellingtonians have joined forces with groups in 50 countries to protest against off-shore oil drilling.

About 50 people joined hands at Oriental Bay beach in Wellington yesterday as a symbol of their protest against United States oil giant Anadarko, which plans to explore for oil in Pegasus Basin, off Wellington's south coast, later this year.

Green MP Gareth Hughes and Greater Wellington regional councillor Paul Bruce were among those in the human chain.

Their Oriental Bay protest was one of many that took place across the world in unison yesterday as part of the global ''Hands Across The Sand'' day of action against offshore drilling and fossil fuels.

Wellington event organiser and Greenpeace member Miria Hudson said it was one of a large number of protests that will be directed at Anadarko.

''It's a very visual event in terms of everyone around the world doing the same thing at the same time. We think it will have an effect,'' she said.

In addition to the Wellington protest, there were demonstrations at beaches in Dunedin, Christchurch, Kaikoura, Nelson, Motueka, Golden Bay, Ohope and on Auckland's North Shore.

The Government granted Anadarko two exploration permits for adjoining blocks in the Pegasus Basin in December.

The oil giant hopes to find about 150 million barrels of oil in the area. Its drilling rigs could be as close as 25 kilometres from shore, or up to 100km away.

Ms Hudson said there were ''serious concerns'' Anadarko's safety record.

It had a 25 per cent share in the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon oil well that caused an environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010.

An explosion on the rig killed 11 crewmen, and caused the biggest offshore oil spill in US history.

Anadarko has previously pointed out that it was not the operator of the well, and in 20 years of deepwater drilling it had never had a significant incident.

''The permit granted for exploration of the Pegasus Basin extends out to areas that are twice as deep as the Deepwater Horizon, and New Zealand simply does not have the capacity to respond to a blow-out in water that deep,'' Ms Hudson said.

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- The Dominion Post

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