This morning, Statoil pulled the plug on its operations in the Reinga Basin, claiming the probability of finding oil was too low to justify a continued search.
But the move follows years of intense public pressure by the Northland community, which has an 87% opposition to oil activities, and has seen thousands of people taking part in numerous hikoi and mass public demonstrations, often culminating outside the annual Government-supported petroleum conference in Auckland.
The powerful East Cape iwi, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, have also actively supported the Northern Iwi in their fight against oil.
Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner, Kate Simcock, says the announcement is a win for people power and for the Northland community.
“Statoil says local opposition didn’t contribute to the decision to ditch West Coast plans, but that’s hard to believe,” she says.
"We know that Statoil were surprised and embarrassed by the huge public scrutiny they faced in Northland, especially after our Government had promised them it would be a walk in the park.
“But now the Government has been left with egg on its face, and we’re going to make sure that when Statoil finally gives up and leaves New Zealand for good, it will be thanks to local opposition.
“The industry should expect community resistance at every turn, and the Government should prepare for a battering of its climate-denialist oil agenda. This will all culminate at the next oil conference in Taranaki in March.”
Actress Lucy Lawless made international headlines in 2012 when she and six Greenpeace activists scaled the derrick of Shell oil drillship, the Noble Discoverer, in Port Taranaki, and camped up there for more than 70 hours.
She will be part of Greenpeace’s summer of action.
“It’s incomprehensible to me that in 2016, when we’re all well aware of the climate emergency we’re facing, our Government is still selling off our seas and land for climate-destroying drilling and fracking,” she says.
“If our Government won’t do the right thing, we have to take matters into our own hands. It’s time for New Zealanders to join together to make sure that this summer spells the end of the oil search in our homeland.”
And it’s looking like it will be a busy summer.
This weekend marks the entrance of yet another oil research vessel, the PGS Apollo, into Port Taranaki. The boat will be doing a re-supply before heading out to search for oil north of Farewell Spit for at least a month.
And from November, the world’s biggest oil researcher, Schlumberger, will be seismic testing in the Pegasus Basin, most probably on behalf of companies including Statoil and Chevron.
Greenpeace’s Simcock says Greenpeace will be escalating the fight against oil through until the annual oil conference in March.
The conference, usually held in Auckland, has endured years of protests and marches involving thousands upon thousands of people. It has now been moved to Taranaki for 2017.
Simcock says the change in location won’t help.
“The oil industry can run, but it can’t hide. Last year hundreds of kiwis were prepared to block the doors of the conference and put their bodies on the line, and next year we’re predicting thousands will turn out to put the final nail in the coffin.
“An entire summer of community civil disobedience is going to lead up to this conference and we’re calling for everyone to join us. This is the beginning of the end for the oil industry.”