Oil exploration faces challenge

In what is understood to be a legal first, protest groups including Greenpeace are trying to get the courts to block the Government permit granted two years ago for Brazilian oil giant Petrobras to look for oil off the East Cape.

Last year the survey ship Orient Explorer faced a protest flotilla while carrying out seismic testing of the Raukumara Basin area for Petrobras. At the time, Petrobras said protest action could prompt it to withdraw early from its contractual obligations and an oil industry group called the protests "economic sabotage".

But today in the High Court at Wellington, Greenpeace and Te Whanau a Apanui will apply to get a judicial review of the legality of the Government permit for Petrobras to look for oil off the coast.

Te Whanau a Apanui and Greenpeace want Petrobras' permit quashed "on the basis that the Government did not properly consider the environment", including the potential environmental damage that could be caused by the exploration Petrobras plans to carry out. The permit also did not consider New Zealand's international obligations, or the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, when it awarded the permit.

Petroleum Exploration and Production Association chief executive David Robinson was relaxed about the challenge. The industry was interested to see if the Court thought the Government consultation process was "sufficient".

But he said the Government was borrowing $150 million a week and the country had terrific oil and gas resources that "we should make the most of to pay for all the things we want to do".

Last year the Government earned just under $1 billion directly from oil and gas companies in royalties and taxes. The industry employs about 7000 people directly and indirectly.

Taranaki Daily News