2 Jun 2010

Flow-on effect awaited from Petrobras project

4:26 pm on 2 June 2010

Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon says he hopes gas and oil exploration shortly to begin off the East Cape will have a flow-on effect for the local economy.

The Government has awarded a Brazilian oil company, Petrobras, the sole right to explore and drill for five years in the 12,000 square km Raukumara Basin.

Mr Foon says he hopes the deal will result in more work for Gisborne, either through its port, or in goods and services and processing.

The Tauranga Chamber of Commerce also welcomed the announcement as good news for the whole region.

Chief executive Max Mason says the type of jobs that will be created won't just be low wage ones, but will be high-tech jobs that are exactly what the region needs.

However, the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association says any benefits may take years to flow into the local economy.

Association chief executive John Pfahlert told Morning Report that it will take three to four years for initial seismic surveys to be completed.

He said the investment is potentially high risk as oil has never been found commercially outside Taranaki.

Meanwhile, petroleum consultant Stephen O'Connor says Petrobras is taking a huge punt.

He says the Raukumara Basin is an unexplored frontier, which needs a company with deep pockets and deep-water expertise.

Mr O'Connor says the basin is between 1500 - 3000 metres deep.

Ability questioned

An environmental group says Petrobras could not deal with an oil leak like the one in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Environment and Conservation Organisations says Petrobras is experienced in deep water, but lacks the resources of the biggest oil companies.

Co-chair Cath Wallace says BP is unable to deal with the Gulf leak even relatively close to the shoreline, and Petrobras could not deal with a disaster in deeper water, further from the New Zealand coast.

She says the Government has not given environment groups and independent experts any input into new oil drilling rules which are to be announced on Thursday.