Greenpeace 'scaremongering' over deep sea oil, says Key

02:14, Oct 23 2013

Prime Minister John Key has attacked Greenpeace for "scaremongering" over an oil blowout study.

The environmental lobby group today released scientific modelling which shows a deep-sea oil spill could ruin some of New Zealand's favourite beaches and have a catastrophic effect on the economy.

It also concluded it could take up to 76 days to stem the flow, because relief equipment needs to be transported from overseas.

Texan oil giant Anadarko will begin exploratory drilling in the Taranaki and Canterbury basins this summer.

Greenpeace says this is the riskiest phase of oil production, pointing to the Deepwater Horizon blowout in 2010.

But Key says there is more chance of another Rena disaster than an oil spill. The container ship grounded off Tauranga in 2011, creating a 5 kilometre slick that threatened wildlife and fishing grounds.

"It's scaremongering from Greenpeace. The reality is that there's been 50,000 wells in the Gulf of Mexico since the 1960s," he said.

"They had a problem with one. Any risk is minuscule, probably much greater a risk that we have another Rena in New Zealand."

The Government would ensure that any companies involved in drilling would follow "world's best practice".

"Regulation and technology has moved on dramatically since the Gulf," he said.

Key also argued that it was the responsibility of the Environmental Protection Authority to issue consents, and ensure authorities could respond adequately to a spill.

"I'm sure they'll take those responsibilities very seriously ... we expect world's best practice to be followed and I'm sure it will be."

Greenpeace New Zealand asked scientists to make detailed estimates of how far an oil slick could stretch, based on wind, tide and sea currents.

The results, which have been greeted with cynicism by the Government and exploration industry, suggest a blowout off the North Island west coast might reach Northland and coat some of Auckland's iconic west coast beaches.

A slick in the Canterbury Basin could reach as far as the International Dateline, almost 3000km away.

The Green Party has called on the Government to "abandon its deep-sea drilling agenda." Energy spokesman Gareth Hughes said National was putting pristine beaches at risk.

"The oil spill modelling shows that a blowout from deep-sea drilling would have huge consequences if it occurred. Even though a well blowout is a low probability event, we have to be prepared," he said.

Maritime New Zealand is not prepared for a subsea emergency, he said.

"Deep-sea drilling is not worth the risk. The consequences for New Zealand's environment, economy and reputation would be catastrophic.

"While there are some short-term economic benefits to deep-sea drilling, they don't justify risking a huge spill that could cost us billions."

Greenpeace's oil spill modelling:

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