Sanctuary in spot earmarked for drilling

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 14:51 17/01/2014

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The Christchurch City Council is calling on the government to remove Banks Peninsula's marine mammal sanctuary from an area earmarked for possible oil drilling.

The Government, through New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals (NZPM), is considering awarding permits for oil exploration off the Canterbury coast, including in a portion of the marine mammal sanctuary that was created around Banks Peninsula in 1989 to protect the endangered Hector's dolphin.

The council is opposed to any oil drilling off the Canterbury coast and wants the government to exclude the marine mammal sanctuary from its considerations, at the very least.

In a formal submission on NZPM's 2014 block offer the council said the sanctuary and the marine reserves within it were valuable natural and community resources that should be protected.

At a minimum it wanted those areas removed from the block offer before it was released for tender.

The submission went on to say the council was concerned with the risk posed by offshore petroleum exploration and production in deep ocean water to Christchurch's coastal environment and its economy.

It strongly recommended the Government give further consideration to the risks before any additional areas were released for tender.

''Our two biggest export earners, agriculture and tourism, with their brand promise of being 100 per cent pure, rely in part on New Zealand as being seen as a world leader in environmental stewardship,'' the submission pointed out.

If there was a large oil spill off the Canterbury coast, it could put the economy at risk.

NZPM is due to make a decision on whether to proceed with the block offer next month.

Energy Minister Simon Bridges will then make recommendations to Cabinet.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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