13 Aug 2014

Kaumatua drill plan anger spills over

7:30 am on 13 August 2014

Greenpeace was taken aback by the actions of a kaumatua who turned the tables on oil company representatives at a meeting in Kaitaia. But the environmental group said the Maori elder's anger was understandable.

Selwyn Clarke, who fought in World War II in the 28th Maori Battalion, brought to an abrupt the meeting between iwi, community groups and officials from Statoil on Tuesday.

The company is owned by the Norwegian government and has consent to explore for deep sea oil in the Reinga Basin.

The runanga o Te Rarawa invited the company to attend the meeting and explain its plans.

Mike Smith represented Greenpeace and said the Maori elders were so upset they didn't bother with a powhiri and vented their anger at Statoil officials for three hours.

Mr Clarke, a veteran of the Bastion Point and Takahue occupations, then tipped over the officials' tables before the kaumatua left.

Mr Smith said seismic testing Statoil wants to do this summer has been shown to harm the hearing of whales, dolphins and fish; and whanau in the Far North don't want a bar of it.

The Norwegian government should be investing in clean energy projects, he said - not putting other countries' sea life and coastline at risk by looking for oil.

Opposition twofold

Mike Smith said people opposed exploration mainly for two reasons.

He said one was climate change, and people weren't stupid, they knew the burning of fossil fuel was contributing to changes in climate.

Mr Smith said the other thing was that people at the hui told Statoil that they were worried about the possibility of an oil spill.

He said people at the meeting told Statoil that kaimoana (seafood) had sustained locals for many years.

Mr Smith said food gathering from the sea was not recreational, but sometimes it could mean life or death, and whether or not children would be able to eat.