'No drill' protest on Sunday

EMMA DANGERFIELD
Last updated 09:46 23/03/2012

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Kaikoura

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A number of local groups and organisations have joined the council and written to the government voicing their concerns about the risks associated with oil and gas exploration off the Kaikoura coast.

The Kaikoura District Council has sent a letter to New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals general manager David Binnie, outlining concerns on behalf of the community regarding the off-shore blocks closest to Kaikoura, 12PEG1 and 12PEG2, as well as the offshore section of permit 52676.

The letter, signed by mayor Winston Gray, raises a number of concerns including the risk of an oil spill and the capacity of New Zealand authorities to deal with it, the effect of seismic activity on marine mammals, and the dependence of the local community on marine life and fishing.

Similar letters have also been written by the Kaikoura branch of Forest & Bird, Whale Watch Kaikoura, Encounter Kaikoura, Kaikoura Information Tourism Incorporated (KITI) and coastal marine guardian group Te Korowai o Te Tai o Marokura.

In a detailed four-page letter, Te Korowai sets out to explain the special values of the Kaikoura coast and marine environment. The letter outlines cultural concerns and explains the significance of the Hikurangi Trench to the people of Ngati Kuri. Three of the off-shore blocks in question lie directly over the Hikurangi Trench and Hope fault line.

The letter also explains that the Kaikoura Canyon is home to the most biologically rich ocean habitat known in the world at depths of below 500m. It is 100 times richer than the next documented area at this depth outside areas with the life-support system of hydrothermal vents.

Te Korowai's letter goes on to list a number of marine mammals which use these waters and which they consider to be sensitive to petroleum exploration, including the sperm whale for which Kaikoura is world-renowned, fur seals and a variety of dolphins.

Economic impact of a large-scale disaster is also mentioned in the letter:

It appears, however, that local concern and knowledge is falling on deaf ears as only those legislative bodies deemed affected parties are being consulted. The ministry has produced a list of iwi and councils with whom it will consult, and is not taking public submissions from any other parties, including those listed above.

Minister of Energy and Resources, Phil Heatley, told the council in a separate letter that a new bill to manage environmental effects was before parliament which would cover blocks more than 12 nautical miles from the coast. Organisers are asking that any uncollected petitions be dropped off at Detail, West End, this Friday.

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Lynda Kitchingham says concerned residents are being asked to make a stand by spreading the word and meeting at the Scarborough St lookout at 4pm this Sunday.

There will be music, guest speakers and the petition will then be handed over to MPs.

Visit nodrillkaikoura on Facebook.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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