Protest a chance to voice drilling worries

STEFFAN BROWNING
Last updated 09:23 11/02/2014
Foxton Beach
DAVID UNWIN/Fairfax NZ

SEASIDE BANNERS: Anti-drilling protesters at Foxton Beach direct their message to the west as part of a national effort to show support for boats observing Anadarko’s oil exploration.

Banners on the beach
Sven Herselman
Banners on the beach will be held at Rarangi on Saturday at mid day: Andrewa Hahlsen, Marite Samson, John Martin, Gabriella Waizeneggar, Jason Tillman, Nikolas Link, 12, and Lucas Martin, 13.
An estimated 700 gathered at Raglan Beach to protest deep sea oil drilling and seabed mining as part of the nationwide Banners on the Beach campaign.
tdn oil stand
Kids join the "Banners on the Beach" campaign in New Plymouth.

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OPINION: Concern about oil drilling is spreading in Marlborough, from the strong No Drill Kaikoura campaign, and now to Rarangi with a Banners on the Beach demonstration.

The Rarangi protest is one of many being held on beaches around the South Island, all kicking off at noon on Saturday.

I will be in Dunedin but hope that anyone opposed to oil and gas exploration starting off the Marlborough coast turns up to join people around New Zealand opposing drilling that threatens our environment and places the Earth in jeopardy.

Not only areas already targeted by oil companies like the Pegasus Basin off the Wellington, Wairarapa and Marlborough coasts are up for grabs by oil companies, but all of New Zealand. The National Government is calling for expressions of interest by the likes of Petrobras, Anadarko, Todd and Shell.

One exploration area touches near Kaikoura, where the coast is covered by marine protection organisation Te Korowai for protection and careful management. This is a slap in the face for the 2330 Kaikoura people who in 2012 asked Parliament to withdraw Pegasus Basin exploration blocks from drilling.

This basin, where Anadarko has started seismic testing and mapping of the sea bed, reaches within 20 kilometres from the northern Kaikoura District shoreline and 47km from the Kaikoura Peninsula.

Seismic exploration could threaten the whales and seals in the area that attract tourists to the town, whose residents carry the risks deemed acceptable by the National Government and oil companies.

Stand at Rarangi Beach facing the Wairarapa coast and you are looking down the northern boundary of the Pegasus Basin exploration area.

No-one likes bearers of bad news and, sadly, people who stand up against oil companies at South Island beaches may be taunted as being hypocritical because they drive cars. These critics are missing the point.

Protesters are not saying the world needs to go back to the days of horses and carts, but that uncontrolled burning of finite fossil fuels is selfish.

To stabilise the climate at even 2 degrees Celsius warmer than now would mean leaving 80 per cent of fossil fuel resources on company balance sheets in the ground, let alone drilling for more.

As fellow Green Party MP Gareth Hughes said, "It's all about our kids. If we stand back and let New Zealand be opened up to giant overseas-owned oil companies, generations ahead will look back and wonder how their parents and grandparents knowingly allowed their future to be destroyed."

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The good news is that there are alternatives to oil, and investment in researching these could be better for New Zealand than welcoming foreign-owned oil companies to our shores. There are already people in New Zealand driving electric cars and regions that promote this.

I've just visited a friend with an electric car that he can recharge at any three-point plug or public recharging point.

Northland power company Northpower is collaborating with the Northland Regional Council and the Auckland Council, with Auckland planning a network of charging points at some public libraries.

PricewaterhouseCoopers has stated that, should we choose it, New Zealand's share of the global market for clean technologies is estimated at up to $22 billion a year. And Greenpeace's report "The Future is Here" found green energy created four times more jobs than oil; 50 per cent of New Zealand jobs relied on this country's clean green reputation.

Against the dirty truth that if a catastrophe did occur during drilling, consequences would be huge for our economy and environment. Anadarko, which has a five-year permit to explore the Pegasus Basin, was found to be a guilty party in the catastrophic Gulf of Mexico spill in 2010 which cost the United States economy more than US$40 billion (NZ$47.8b), causing an area twice the size of the North Island to be closed to fishing for months and devastating wildlife and communities.

There has never been drilling at the depths proposed and permitted in New Zealand waters and this country is alarmingly under-prepared for such a spill, as the Rena disaster demonstrated.

Some of the anger people are feeling as this exploration kicks off is because of the way the Government has over-ridden democracy to fast-track permits with no public consultation and banning protest near oil drilling at sea.

Closed-door consideration of drilling applications raises the possibility of Pike River-type disasters, which we must avoid.

I hope anyone opposed to the "drill it, mine-it, frack-it' approach to development will join others from our community at Rarangi.

To learn more about Banners on the Beach, go to getfree.org.nz/banners

- Marlborough

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