Oil spill report 'scaremongering'

ISOBEL EWING
Last updated 05:00 23/10/2013

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A Taranaki commercial fisherman maintains his trust in the oil industry despite a new report claiming a deep-sea oil spill could devastate the region's fisheries.

The report, commissioned by Greenpeace and released yesterday, uses computer oil spill modelling to show the impact a deep-sea well blowout could have on New Zealand's coastline and marine environment.

Texan oil giant Anardarko will begin exploratory drilling in Taranaki waters this summer.

Egmont Seafoods owner Keith Mawson said people should not chase away the industry that supported the region. "This province is heavily reliant on the industry and this region needs to be careful we don't get pushed into a corner by scaremongers."

He said a big cyclone could come through and cause the same sort of damage.

Environmental campaigner Sarah Roberts was aghast by the report's findings.

She said it was enough to worry about an onshore oil spill let alone a major offshore well failure.

Petroleum Exploration and Production Association (Pepanz) CEO David Robinson scrapped the report as scaremongering and a reflection of Greenpeace's ill feeling toward the oil industry.

"It takes the worst possible situation and tries to sell it as a probability, when in reality it's unlikely to happen."

The report noted that a spill larger than 3500 tons would require overseas contractors to be brought in for the clean-up, meaning large quantities of oil could flow into the ocean until the response equipment arrived.

Mr Robinson said the world had learnt much from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in April 2010 and technology had improved since then.

In the event of a large spill, overseas response teams would arrive in a matter of "hours or days". "[The report] makes very bold assumptions that oil would be flowing into the sea for long periods of time. It's science fiction."

Offshore drilling operator Shell Todd Oil Services remained muted on the topic yesterday.

Director of environmental quality at Taranaki Regional Council Gary Bedford said the reality was Taranaki was an area with a high risk of oil spills and the council trained for it.

The offshore wells are in the Exclusive Economic Zone and outside the council's jurisdiction, but the TRC would be involved in the clean-up effort in the event of a major spill.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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