Deep-sea oil plans anger stars

Last updated 05:00 04/09/2013

Hollywood actor Sam Neill and other celebrities criticise deep-sea oil exploration plans.

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Hollywood actor Sam Neill has teamed up with a host of stars to lambast the Government over plans to shut out the public from decisions on deep-sea oil drilling.

The Jurassic Park actor has shot a video with fellow actors and environmentalists Lucy Lawless and Robyn Malcolm. Musicians Tiki Taane and the Topp Twins make cameo appearances.

The three-minute clip also features Lady Blake, widow of yachtsman Sir Peter Blake, poet Albert Wendt and surfing champions Mischa Davis and Daniel Kereopa.

The Greenpeace NZ film was sparked by recent law changes which reduce the right to oppose exploratory drilling.

Neill uses the "call to action" video montage to criticise National for threatening the oceans and spoiling New Zealand's international reputation. He says the country is "going backwards fast."

"The Government seems to want to take the country in a very different direction."

Taane accuses the Government of "back-room deals" with oil companies and says "our right to protest has been taken from us."

"This is not about job creation. It is simply about making other people rich," he says.

Lady Blake tells the camera: "The greed for fossil fuels is leading to the expansion of toxic drilling, mining and fracking into every last unspoiled part of the globe - from the Arctic Circle to the deepest of our oceans."

Last week Environment Minister Amy Adams announced proposals that would see applications for exploratory drilling go through the Environmental Protection Agency. They would be "non-notified", which means members of the public would not get to have a say.

The proposal will be introduced to the Marine Legislation Bill, currently before Parliament, by way of a Supplementary Order Paper (SOP). This means it won't go through a parliamentary select committee.

The move follows the controversial "Anadarko Amendment" which saw a ban on protesting at sea. It was also introduced it as an SOP, avoiding select committee scrutiny.

Environmentalists say the exploration stage is risky with a danger of spills.

But Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says attracting oil companies is vital for economic growth.

He released a report yesterday that claims the petroleum and minerals sector generates $333 per hour worked, with $380 million in levies paid to the Crown last year. Workers are paid on average $105,000 a year, more than twice the New Zealand average, Joyce said.

"If you make things over-burdensome in the early stages of exploration then you will end up in a situation where [international companies] won't bother."

The video can be seen at from tonight.


A proposal to tweak laws governing New Zealand waters would stop the public having a say on applications for exploratory oil drilling. The plans have environmentalists up in arms, - the Government says attracting oil giants is essential for economic growth.

WHAT IS HAPPENING? Environment Minister Amy Adams last week released a discussion paper on proposals for regulating activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), waters stretching out to 200 nautical miles. Applications for exploratory deep sea oil drilling would go through the Environmental Protection Agency, but would be classed as ''non-notified''. This means members of the public would not get to have a say.

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WHY? Adams says the new classification is necessary to keep costs down and involving the public is time-consuming. The exploratory process lasts between four and six weeks and the public would get a say if the companies applied to move to full production. The EPA will make decisions based on evidence and ensure there are safeguards. ''The important point in this is the impact and the threats to the environment. It's not about a public opinion poll, it's about at looking at the information,'' Adams said. She also argues there is currently no environmental oversight of such operations.

BUT NOT EVERYONE AGREES IT'S GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT? Green Party energy spokesman Gareth Hughes says exploration is risky with a danger of spills. Both the Greens  and Greenpeace point out that the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, which killed 11 people, took place while drilling a deep exploratory well. Both are opposed to deep sea drilling and say a leak would be catastrophic for New Zealand's environment, economy and reputation.

WHY IS IT 'ANTI-DEMOCRATIC?' Adams will amend the Marine Legislation Bill through a Supplementary Order Paper (SOP). The bill has already passed a second reading which means the new proposal will escape select committee scrutiny. She argues the public can have its say through the discussion document. But she doesn't have to take those submissions into account. Opposition parties are crying foul because the Government also outlawed protest at sea through a SOP earlier this year, meaning there was no public or political consultation. It became known as the ''Anadarko Amendment'', after the Texan oil firm.

WHO'S IDEA WAS IT? The Government has admitted they have been lobbied by the oil and gas industry over the 'Anadarko Amendment'. Asked if the industry also petitioned for the non-notified classification for exploratory drilling, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said yesterday: ''They certainly lobbied on the whole regime and they have definitely had their views.'' Greenpeace director Bunny McDiarmid NZ says the Government is looking after industry interests and both amendments are a reaction to iwi and Greenpeace protests on the East Coast.

- Fairfax Media


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