Iwi furious at company's plan to leave oil production equipment on Taranaki sea floor

2:49 pm on 11 March 2020

Taranaki iwi say it's completely unacceptable for a former contractor to leave production equipment belonging to failed oil and gas company Tamarind Taranaki on the sea floor.

Mt Taranaki

Mount Taranaki as seen from the sea. Photo: 123RF

Tamarind Taranaki went into receivership in December last year after its $300 million offshore drilling campaign at the Tui oil field failed. It owes creditors about $484m.

It no longer has a contract with the BW Offshore for the storage and offtake of oil, yet the sub-sea infrastructure (petroleum mining equipment such as pipelines and cables) that is owned by Tamarind is still connected to the Umuroa, an oil production vessel.

The Environmental Protection Authority is considering an application to allow it to disconnect and leave some petroleum mining equipment on the seafloor.

Te Kāhui o Taranaki and Ngāti Tara hapū fundamentally opposed the application and environmental manager Puna Wano-Bryant said it could create widespread damage.

"It is completely unacceptable, the magnitude of impact is not just on Māori, these are not Māori cultural values which are often seen as a tag on, the magnitude of impact of this if it goes ahead sets a dangerous legacy which goes to the heart of environmental issues, a national issue and industry issue."

Wano-Bryant said iwi needed clear answers and commitments that whatever the ruling, it would not have any environmental impact.

"For us we want to be clear that before any moorings or anchors are put on to the vessel Umuroa, before any flowlines are cut, are there pollutants? Are there contaminants? Are there any hydrocarbons in the flowlines? Are there any discharges from the vessel itself that could contaminate the waters? We want to be guaranteed before this ruling goes ahead because it will create an irreversible impact on Tangaroa ki tai."

Te Kāhui o Taranaki and Ngāti Tara hapū were notified of the earlier applications by Tamarind for marine discharge and marine consent for development drilling in 2017 and 2018.

They then engaged with Tamarind to ensure they gave proper consideration using a specifically designed cultural values assessment.

However, Te Kāhui o Taranaki chairperson Leanne Horo was concerned Tamarind was no longer honouring that initial engagement.

"Any decision to dump will set a dangerous precedent especially during a time when new decommissioning regulations are being created to prevent irreversible legacy issues. This is not genuine engagement and will give industry a worse reputation than it already has amongst our people," she said.

"Fundamentally, Taranaki Iwi and the hapū of Ngāti Tara are opposed to this activity."