Oil exec junket needed: Govt

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 07:42 30/07/2014

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The Government is defending the spending of taxpayer money to wine and dine oil company executives during the 2011 Rugby World Cup in a bid to attract them to New Zealand.

Eleven executives from nine companies were taken sailing and wine tasting during the New Zealand Oil and Gas Summit 2011, which aimed to use the world cup to attract top industry players.

New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals general manager James Stevenson-Wallace said the executives were from companies that included Statoil, Chevron and Apache.

About $240,000 was spent on marketing, accommodation, meals, rugby tickets, a winery tour and sailing, with the junket revealed this week in a Wall Street Journal story.

"Guests also attended a full-day summit which included presentations on the local oil and gas regime, the prospectivity of our basins and the investment climate," Stevenson-Wallace said.

Only one of those companies had so far been granted a petroleum exploration permit but had committed to spending almost $20 million here, he said.

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said it was "kind of embarrassing to watch the New Zealand Government ingratiate themselves with oil company executives".

"They're basically giving first class treatment to oil company executives at the expense of the taxpayer while they're giving third class treatment to the New Zealand environment and exposing the environment to all the risks of deep sea oil drilling."

The risk to the environment and economy was too high and the benefits to the economy too low, he said.

"New Zealand takes all the risks, these foreign oil companies get all the profits as well as the free rugby tickets."

But Energy Minister Simon Bridges defended the spending: "Obviously it's important to get these people here but ...  the sums expended were very modest in comparison with what's spent internationally and has resulted in billions of dollars of international investment in New Zealand."

It was important to get such people here so they could understand things, such such as New Zealand's geology and governance, he said.

The oil and gas sector currently earns the Government about $800m in royalties and taxes each year which are used to fund roads, schools and hospitals.

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