10 Dec 2014

Permits set to fuel more protests

8:05 pm on 10 December 2014

Some Māori protesters predict there will be growing opposition now that the Government has granted 15 oil exploration permits to oil and gas companies worth about $110 million.

Protesters board up the Statoil office.

Protesters board up the Statoil office. Photo: Greenpeace

In October this year, more than 500 people marched through Queen Street in central Auckland against oil drilling in New Zealand as part of the Waiho Papa Hīkoi.

In February, protesters walked from Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Reinga) to Waitangi to confront Prime Minister John Key over a Statoil permit in the Reinga Basin.

The Norwegian state-owned energy company's permit has been expanded to allow a bigger space for exploration.

One of the hīkoi organisers, Reuben Taipari-Porter, said that he and others would keep protesting against exploration even though he believed the Government ignored their voices.

Mr Taipari-Porter said about 1000 people attended a Stop Statoil concert on Ahipara Beach at the weekend.

Statoil plans to explore in these shaded areas off the New Zealand coast.

Statoil plans to explore in these shaded areas off the New Zealand coast. Photo: STATOIL

This morning, six Greenpeace activists boarded up Statoil's office in Wellington with a sign telling the company to go home. No one was inside.

Greenpeace's New Zealand chief policy adviser Nathan Argent said the environmental organisation wanted to send a strong message that many New Zealanders did not want deep oil drilling off their coastline. He said with seismic testing came great environmental risks.

Among the new permits, Statoil would also work with Chevron to explore just over 26,000 square kilometres off Wairarapa. In 2011, one of Chevron's wells leaked more than 400,000 litres of oil off Brazil.

Mr Argent said the partnership with Chevron would begin to ring alarm bells up and down the country and increase opposition to drilling plans.

Scientists aboard Greenpeace sponsored yacht Vega set sail last weekend to monitor Statoil's seismic testing.

Ngāpuhi descendant Mike Smith is campaigning against Statoil and believed opposition was strengthening as people get their head around the issue.

"Nowadays you say honour the Treaty, and people smile and nod and say, 'Yes of course' - but that certainly wasn't the case 20 or 30 years ago. I think this issue is similar that it has a gestation period and is definitely gaining ground at considerable speed."

Mr Smith would continue the campaign against Statoil. He said with oil prices dropping, it was creating an environment that could see companies withdraw from exploration plans as marginal prospects were no longer economic.

Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges and Statoil have not yet responded to Te Manu Korihi's requests for interviews.

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