Protests on the beaches

EMMA DANGERFIELD AND GERMARI HERSELMAN
Last updated 07:56 17/02/2014

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Hundreds of people took to beaches in Kaikoura on Saturday to protest against deep sea oil drilling in the Pegasus and Canterbury basins.

A good crowd also turned out at Rarangi, near Blenheim, as part of the Banners on the Beach protest, which saw thousands of people swarm to east coast beaches across the South Island.

In Kaikoura, the rain did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the community, who came out in droves, hoping to send a clear message to the New Zealand Government and oil giant Anadarko that they were not happy with plans to drill in their waters.

The protest kicked off with a march along the main street to the beach where other protesters had gathered. Boats and kayaks also sat in the bay to show support.

One of the co-ordinators of the event, Coral Thomas, said she would not normally protest, but she felt compelled to get involved to help protect the environment for her mokopuna.

Growing up, she said, there had always been an abundance of seafood and she wanted to ensure the same for future generations.

She questioned why the Government was prepared to risk the local community and livelihoods for the profits of an off-shore oil company.

New Zealanders ought to be the concern for the Government and ministers should be thinking about what was right for those New Zealanders first, she said.

Julia Lee was also at the Kaikoura event with her sons, aged 8 and 10. She said it was important for them to be involved because continued efforts to extract oil would impact on their futures and those after them.

"It's about showing them that there is more to energy than oil, which is toxic to our health anyway," she said. "It would be bad if oil did spill, and deep-sea drilling is unbelievably dangerous . . . But it is also bad for the environment when it is being used."

The people of Kaikoura who had come out on Saturday should be proud of their efforts, she said. "I was so impressed with the people there. For yourself and your children - at least we stood up."

Guest speaker at the Rarangi protest, Rarangi resident Vicki Baker, said the Government did not require oil drilling permit holders to have a capping stack, used to plug oil leaks underwater, as part of their emergency response plan.

"The closest capping stack will take 32 to 35 days to reach us from Singapore and that is if it is available - and in the meantime we are ankle deep in oil," she said.

Randi Hutchinson, originally from the United States, also went to Rarangi to show her support. She said people should not be blind to Anadarko wanting to drill off the coast of New Zealand.

"They are coming to New Zealand and bring disaster with them. The spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 devastated an area twice the size of the North Island.

"Once the birds were cleaned up the companies left the country to do the rest. It doesn't affect their lives - they don't care, but it does affect the lives of everyone here and the next generations as well," Ms Hutchison said.

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- The Marlborough Express

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