OPINION: Sailing on the Oil Free Sea flotilla last month was an amazing experience, that I am grateful and proud to be a part of.
We were sent off in style by hundreds of hands waving from Princess Wharf in downtown Auckland.
I was lucky to be on a beautiful 44ft ketch (double masted) yacht, with two others: a skipper called Tim and Paul the other crew member.
We sailed for four days on gentle winds and fairly calm seas. Coming around Cape Reinga, where the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea meet, was a little rough, but the coastline was stunning and there was amazing sea-bird life and fish life.
We arrived at the drill site, which is about half way between Cape Reinga and Farewell Spit. The sea was getting more and more calm and by day two the sea was glassy. Apparently it is this calm out there just 2 per cent of the year.
When the first boats of the flotilla arrived the day before us, they were greeted by a pod of whales that Whale Watch Kaikoura recognised as regular locals on the East Coast. They even had names for them!
Maybe they followed sailing vessel Tiama, as it had sailed up from Bluff via Kaikoura.
The day the drill ship Bob Douglas arrived, we could see the top of it come over the horizon from about 50km away. That was the warning of how monstrous this ship is.
It got bigger and bigger and towered above the tiny protest yacht SV Vega as she sat on the spot where the drilling was to happen.
They warned Vega to move but the co-skippers on Vega said they would not. The Bob Douglas slowly moved into location and looked like a smoking, industrial city block on floats.
The other five yachts sailed around the Bob Douglas well outside the 500m restricted zone, with at least one vessel trying to keep SV Vega in sight at all times.
Our yacht Friendship was towing a large long banner through the water that read "Stop Deep Sea Oil".
For me the main reason to be out there 100km off the coast of Raglan was to help inform the public, who have not been involved in the process of making an informed decision on this potentially disastrous path that the National Government are racing us down at the moment.
Huge oil spills do happen: There have been three major spills in the Gulf of Mexico since 1979, releasing over 1 billion litres of crude oil into the sea.
Spills are most likely to happen in the exploratory phase of drilling and the risk is 60 per cent greater in deep water. This is New Zealand's first deep sea well in waters around 1500m deep, which is definitely pushing technological boundaries.
I feel that if New Zealanders had all the information before them, the majority of people would choose not to take the risks of deep sea oil drilling and the devastating impact it could have on our seas and beaches, on our fishing areas and our wildlife, and our massive tourism industry.
We do not need to find more oil in extreme places. We can not burn all the fossil fuels reserves that have been found already, as this will lead us into run-away climate change, a dramatic rise in sea level, more frequent super storms (such as the Philippines) and the loss of an estimated 1 million species by the end of this century.
That's in the lifetime of children born now and would be the most heinous crime ever committed by humans.
For us, as the species who is forcing this destruction on the world, it is time to stop denying our addiction to fossil fuels and move urgently into clean renewable energies, if we hope to slow climate change and to reduce the damage.
Let's get free of fossil fuels.
What an exciting change it will be!
- Scott Davidson is a Nelson-based self-employed landscaper, father and active member of Clean Energy Action.
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