Deep-sea oil blowout could decimate favourite kiwi beaches

Press release - October 23, 2013
A computer oil spill modelling report released today shows a deep-sea blowout could have devastating impacts on New Zealand's coastal waters and significant economic consequences.

Industry standard modelling by Wellington based data scientists Dumpark using ten years of climate and weather data, shows the blowout effects of two planned deep-sea drilling locations off the West Coast of the North Island and the East Coast of the South Island. The deepest current production well in New Zealand is 125 meters. Texan oil driller Anadarko is scheduled to begin the first deep-sea drilling (at 1500 meters) this summer off Auckland’s West Coast.

“We predicted the trajectory of a thousand oil spill scenarios at two sites in New Zealand using ten years of global archives of marine weather data. We are basically answering a “what if” question. What if a catastrophic blowout scenario occurred at these deep-sea drill sites?” - Laurent Lebreton, Dumpark Ocean Modeller

The modelling for the north shows the likelihood of oil hitting Auckland’s iconic West Coast beaches and harbours. In the south, a spill off the coast of Otago could spread across the Chatham Rise - a vital commercial fishing ground and marine wildlife habitat - reaching all the way to the Chatham Islands.

“In the North Island scenario, a deep-sea blowout will probably have dramatic consequences for the entire Western coastline and harbours from Taranaki’s Cape Egmont to Opononi in Northland - including Auckland’s West Coast beaches. For a blowout off Otago, most modelled trajectories drift eastward without encountering land for months between Christchurch and the Chatham islands.” - Timo Franz, Dumpark Data Analyst

Spill modelling reports are a permitting requirement for oil drilling, however deep-sea oil spill modelling reports have not yet been made publicly available on the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) website.

Greenpeace Campaigner Steve Abel said “The Government have been understating the real risks being taken with our oceans and coastlines, so today we are showing New Zealanders what the Government, Minister Simon Bridges and industry already know and have kept hidden - the full extent of the risk of deep-sea drilling.”   

“Drilling at these depths is much riskier than the shallow drilling we currently have in New Zealand. This modelling suggests just how much of a threat deep-sea drilling could be to our values, our seas, our beaches, our way of life and our economic prosperity."

The spill modelling report will be launched on Wednesday 23 October, alongside an interactive website and animation (www.oilspillmap.org.nz).

Documents:

Click here to view/download the report.

Click here to view/download the 2-page summary

Click here to view the animation on youtube

Categories