Applying best practice and adhering to Government legislation and industry standards were the guarantees made by oil giant Anadarko at a meeting in Kaikoura on Friday.
However, this may not have been enough to convince the marine dependent community about deep sea oil drilling.
Although those at Takahanga Marae felt it had been good to begin a dialogue with Anadarko, there are many questions which remain unanswered and some still feel the risk is just too great.
About 90 people turned out to hear a presentation about proposals for oil exploration from Anadarko, the company recently awarded tenders for the two off-shore blocks closest to Kaikoura, and New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals, which is a branch of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
The Kaikoura community has been vocal on the subject of deep sea oil drilling for more than a year. Its primary fear is an oil spill disaster, but there are also concerns of the effects of seismic testing and other processes leading up to actual drilling.
Te Runanga o Kaikoura chairman Sir Mark Solomon opened the meeting by emphasising the importance of the sea to the local community.
He pointed out the seven years of hard work put in by coastal guardian group Te Korowai o Te Tai o Marokura and said the marine environment was a major part of life in Kaikoura.
New Minster of Energy and Resources Simon Bridges said Anadarko had an excellent health and safety track record and it was necessary to maintain this and ensure first class environmental practices. However the flip side was the need to grow the country's economy, which would have a flow-on effect for other businesses.
NZ Petroleum director Kevin Rolens said there was no place for recklessness or foolish decisions in New Zealand but balancing risk and return could be managed by working with reputable operators.
Oil and gas was the fourth largest export commodity, equating to $2.2 billion in New Zealand in 2011, he said, with the Government receiving about 42 per cent of the profits of new developments.
Other countries such as Norway had done well financially from managing their minerals, and there were also regional benefits including jobs, higher wages, local business growth, improved infrastructure and better schools.
The industry now employed the equivalent of 3730 full-time positions, he said.
"I accept the economics of what this means to New Zealand, but with all due respect in this community we place the environment higher than that."
Sir Mark said he would hate to see three generations of his whanau unable to use the sea for food gathering and other activities because of a spill and asked Mr Bridges to consider how the nation would deal with a disaster as seen in the Gulf of Mexico.
- The Marlborough Express
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