Schools enjoy oil roadshow despite alleged 'bias'

DEENA COSTER
Last updated 05:00 18/02/2014

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A science roadshow travelling around South Taranaki has been given a thumbs up by one of the schools taking part, despite criticism from an environmental group.

The What Lives Down Under roadshow, organised by New Zealand Oil and Gas, Tag Oil and Beach Energy, has been panned by environmentalists as little more than propaganda for the oil and gas industry.

The roadshow provides interactive tools and activities aimed at providing a basic history and understanding of geo-science as well as the role energy plays in daily life.

Several science educators are also on board during the sessions.

Climate Justice Taranaki (CJT) spokeswoman Emily Bailey said she did not think both sides of the issue were reflected on board the visiting truck.

"It's very biased," Ms Bailey said.

She said children who visited the roadshow should also be told about the downsides of the oil and gas industry so they can make up their own minds about it.

She said the organisers' use of dinosaur imagery and "flashy" iPad giveaways might also influence the visiting children.

"It's easy to get caught up in that," she said.

However, head of Waverley Primary School, who hosted the roadshow yesterday, said the experience was "absolutely brilliant".

Principal Carwyn Caffell said the opportunity for his 140 students to "touch, feel and see" science in action was something he did not want them to miss out on.

"To me it's about educating the kids," he said.

He said he only became aware of the criticism of the roadshow yesterday morning but even if he had known about it earlier he would not have changed his decision to host it at the school.

"It's for the good of the kids," he said.

Mr Caffell said he had visited the truck himself yesterday and did not agree with the view it was a propaganda exercise.

"It's all just science, just plain old science," he said.

New Zealand Oil and Gas spokesman John Pagani said the travelling display was part of a strategy to build better relationships with communities which were close to oil and gas sites.

"It's a priority for us to say what we are doing and why before we start work," he said.

Taranaki environmental campaigner Sarah Roberts said it was "outrageous" the oil and gas industry were allowed an opportunity to be hosted at schools.

"I believe there is no place for any industry to be self-promoting themselves in such a way other than at a career expo. The oil and gas bus needs to stay outside the school gate," she said.

The roadshow, open to the public, is at Patea Area School today from 10am-2pm, Opunake High School on Wednesday and Stratford Primary School on Thursday.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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