Concern is mounting in Kaikoura over the tender of offshore blocks for oil and gas exploration, which could include seismic mapping, drilling and fracking.
Twenty-five offshore blocks were released by Energy and Resources Minister Phil Heatley on February 9.
A petition is being circulated around Kaikoura calling for the withdrawal of the two offshore blocks closest to the district (about 50 kilometres to the northeast).
The petition is also calling for the offshore portion of a permit in a third block, from Kekerengu to Marlborough Sounds, to be declined. Those behind the petition believe the risks of deep-sea oil exploration are unacceptable.
Kaikoura resident Lynda Kitchingham said she was forced to act after considering the widespread environmental damage caused by oil spills around the world.
"When you take into account the depth of water in these blocks, which is in some parts 2500 metres, compared with the Gulf of Mexico Horizon spill at 1500m, the movement of currents and the underlying geological instability, deep-water drilling in these blocks could be an ecological timebomb for the Kaikoura marine environment," she said.
"The size of the area wiped out for fishing following the Gulf spill is roughly the size of the South Island. Local fisherfolk should be very concerned."
Ms Kitchingham said one of the most significant recommendations in the Te Korowai o Te Tai o Marokura draft strategy was the application for World Heritage Status. Te Korowai is the coastal guardians organisation in Kaikoura.
The granting of this status would enhance Kaikoura's reputation as an international eco-destination, and so to even contemplate upcurrent deep-water oil drilling around that area beggared belief, she said.
An event is being organised to give the Kaikoura community the opportunity to show its opposition to the tender, on March 25 at 4pm at the lookout on Scarborough St, and to officially hand the petition to members of Parliament.
- The Marlborough Express