Hundreds protest against deep sea drilling as Canterbury coast remains on offer
Protesters against deep-sea drilling made a giant human chain along Christchurch's New Brighton Beach, as part of an international movement against oil extraction.
Deep sea oil drilling has proven a polarising subject in Canterbury, with the Christchurch City Council late last year saying it wants the Canterbury coast excluded due to the risk of a "catastrophic" oil spill.
Part of the Canterbury coast is included in government agency New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals' Block Offer 2017, which lets oil companies bid for exploration permits.
Organiser Bridget White said protesters braved the icy winds on Saturday to take part in the annual Hands Across the Sand event.
* Council wants Canterbury excluded from deep-sea drilling
* 90 per cent of New Zealand sea birds at risk of extinction – report
* Large area off Canterbury coast proposed for oil exploration
* 100 stand against deep-sea oil drilling at New Brighton
The turnout of between 150 to 200 people "shows how much the public cares about this issue", she said.
"It feels incredible to be a part of such a massive event.
"And with election year this year, it's time for us to make a decision. A decision whether we want a world where we move towards renewable energy alternatives that is sustainable for our grandchildren, or whether we want to let climate change run away and change our planet for the worse."
The Government's Block Offer 2017 is now open for petroleum exploration permits.
The area offered near Canterbury is the largest ever, and borders several marine and scientific reserves.
In a staff-generated submission, the council cited the effect an oil spill would have on local tourism and agriculture. It requested that Canterbury be excluded from the block offer due to its concerns.
White was particularly opposed to deep-sea oil drilling because of its high environmental risks.
"I believe one of the statistics that I've heard is that there's a one in 20 chance of an oil spill if it's more than 1.5 kilometres off the coastline.
"That could have such a significant effect on New Zealand's wildlife."
Environment Canterbury signalled its opposition last
Hands Across the Sand is taking place around the world, with people as far away as the United States standing against deep sea oil drilling.