A Kiwi man known for his athletic grit and pursuit of justice has likened the glut of deep-sea oil-drilling proposals off New Zealand's coast to the antinuclear fight of the 1980s.
Arguments that drilling stimulates economic growth, that the oil age is long from over and that it's relatively safe, don't sway him.
Fitting then that Rob Hamill made his case from the third Rainbow Warrior, while floating more than 400 kilometres south of Bluff at the pristine Auckland Islands.
Mr Hamill said he was "horrified" to learn how many permits to prospect, explore and drill have been granted to foreign oil companies around the coastline, including off Waikato's west coast.
It is "deeply" concerning.
"It seems to me that the risks are far greater than the rewards," he said yesterday.
"What we're putting at stake here is too precious and too valuable to risk for some short-term oil royalties."
Greenpeace invited Mr Hamill along for the trip into the southern ocean and they motored out of Lyttelton Harbour on the Rainbow Warrior a week ago.
For the past four days Mr Hamill has been taking notes on the sub-antarctic islands' flora and fauna.
The experience was "indescribable", Mr Hamill said.
The trip doubles as an opportunity to argue that deep-sea oil drilling threatens both the Auckland Islands and large tracts of New Zealand's coastline should things go wrong as they did at the Gulf of Mexico's Deepwater Horizon oil rig in 2010. What followed was the largest offshore oil spill in United States history.
A map of prospecting, exploration and drilling permits issued by New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals covers large swathes of sea floor on the North Island's west coast, south of Wellington as well as basins east and south of Canterbury and Otago.
It means the potential for big money for both the government and companies such as Anadarko, Shell, OMV and Origin Energy.
The argument that extraction of oil from the sea floor as far as 3 kilometres underwater could be done safely doesn't wash with Mr Hamill.
"Tell that to the people in the Gulf of Mexico. It's not, and it's proven to be so. It's like saying nuclear power's safe - it's not. We know that and we put a stop to that here. I feel a great sense of pride being a New Zealander associated with that. We stood up to the nuclear powers and said no. And it's the same deal here."
The argument for economic stimulation is similarly futile because "we are not a poverty-stricken country".
"The reality is the oil companies take the bulk of the profits and New Zealand is taking 100 per cent of the risk. They are putting our entire coastline at risk, which is our livelihood. It's such a big part of our lives. This country is not mine, it's my future unborn grandchildren's and it's my, and our job, to hand it on to them. If we're going to allow this sort of thing to happen we are putting all of it at risk."
Mr Hamill will be back in Hamilton later this week.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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