Oily people send warning over new offshore drilling

Press release - July 25, 2010
Greenpeace volunteers covered themselves in ‘oil’ today to send a strong message to the Government to stop its plans for the drilling of new deep water oil wells off New Zealand’s coast.

Action Against Oil Exploration Expansion in New Zealand Greenpeace volunteers covered in 'oil', at Muriwai beach' send a strong message to the Government to stop its plans for the drilling of new deep water oil wells off New Zealand's coast.

The group braved the wintery conditions at Muriwai Beach, west of Auckland, to strip off and cover themselves in a cold and unsightly mixture of mainly molasses and water.

Other oil-covered bodies moved amongst onlookers, collecting signatures against the drilling plans.

The event was held at Muriwai to highlight the fact that Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee is intending to announce the awarding of further petroleum exploration permits by the end of August for oil in the Reinga and Northland coastal zones - which together cover 150,000 square kilometres, an area bigger than the whole of the North Island (1). The expected awarding of further permits to international oil companies is part of a dramatic escalation in planned deep sea oil drilling by the Government. In June this year the Brazilian owned Petrobras oil company was awarded an exploration permit off the East Cape.

"As the ongoing BP Gulf oil disaster demonstrates, deepwater oil drilling is inherently dangerous and accidents can have devastating effects on the marine environment, with huge economic consequences for the tourism and fishing industries. Not to mention the fact that burning oil fuels climate change," says Carmen Gravatt, Greenpeace New Zealand Campaign Director.

"Gerry Brownlee has obviously not learnt from the Government's recent Schedule-4 fiasco. New Zealanders have told the Government that they do not want this country's valuable 'clean and green' reputation and way of life compromised for a short-term gain by international oil companies.

"A disaster on the scale of what is happening in the Gulf would bring New Zealand to its knees, and yet the Government is eyeing up drilling sites where the water is double the depth of the water at the site of the Gulf BP disaster," Gravatt says.

The Government's oil drilling plans come at a time when many other countries are turning away from fossil fuels in response to the climate change crisis, and investing in a Cleantech Revolution of efficiency and renewable energy technologies. In 2008, the global investment in green energy eclipsed that of fossil fuels, attracting US$140bn compared with US$110bn for gas, coal and electricity.

"New Zealand's competitors are spending billions in order to become part of the Cleantech Revolution. We will miss out if this Government continues to think in 19th century economic terms," says Gravatt.

"Clean technology represents a huge economic opportunity that New Zealand simply can't afford to miss - a chance to achieve the sort of sustainable growth and a knowledge-led economy that will be the pillar of the 21st century green revolution. What we need from John Key's Government is a clear commitment to investing in clean technologies," she says.   

Fifteen thousand people have signed Greenpeace's online petition against any new offshore oil wells, and any expansion of coal mining operations, since the petition was launched four weeks ago.

Meanwhile, the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise is currently en route to the Gulf of Mexico to investigate and documents the effects of the Deepwater Horizon spill.

 Photos on Flickr

Other contacts: Carmen Gravatt, Greenpeace New Zealand Campaigns Director, 021 302 251. Jay Harkness, Greenpeace New Zealand Communications and Media Officer, 021 495 216.

VVPR info: Photos available from http://photo.greenpeace.org/GPI...

Notes: (1) http://www.crownminerals.govt.nz/cms/petroleum/blocks-offers/northland-blocks-offer and http://www.crownminerals.govt.nz/cms/petroleum/blocks-offers/reinga-block-offer

Exp. contact date: 2010-08-25 00:00:00