Oil Companies Lacking ‘Expertise’ and ‘Financial Ability’ Set to be Handed Drilling Permits

Press release - May 17, 2013
PM ‘Misled’ New Zealand, say Greenpeace Prime Minister John Key has misled the nation about oil industry safety standards, Greenpeace said today, as an amendment to the controversial Crown Minerals Bill is set to allow companies with no previous experience of drilling to get the relevant permits.

Just last month, during a speech covering offshore oil drilling standards, Key claimed, in front of an audience of oil executives and journalists that “This government is very clear; we won’t let cowboys operate here in New Zealand.”

But today Key’s government has tabled an amendment to the Crown Minerals Bill which will allow companies with no previous experience of drilling or ‘financial ability’ to get the relevant offshore oil permits.

The government explanation to the amendment, which is heard in Parliament this afternoon, says: ‘An applicant for a Tier 1 permit for exploration who does not have the expertise or financial ability to undertake exploration drilling activities will be able to be granted a permit on a conditional basis.’ Once the company has carried out initial survey work it can, according to the amendment, ‘build its own capability to do the contingent work so that it can commit to do that further work itself’.

A Tier 1 permit relates to petroleum, minerals, underground and offshore activities.

Nathan Argent, Greenpeace’s chief policy advisor, said:

“John Key has misled New Zealand. He said his government is not going to let cowboys operate here. But this government amendment is designed to encourage and then unleash a posse of cowboys.

“And, shockingly, this amendment makes it clear that these cowboy chancers won’t even have to have expertise or money, before they’re let lose to drill in our precious seas.

”Last month, an earlier amendment to the same Bill, designed to criminalise aspects of peaceful protests at sea, was slammed by a range of well-known New Zealand groups and individuals.

In a joint statement, Greenpeace, Rt Hon Geoffrey Palmer QC, Peter Williams QC, WWF, Forest and Bird, Dame Anne Salmond, Rikirangi Gage of Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Sir Ngatata Love, the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, George Armstrong (founder of the Peace Squadron), Amnesty International NZ, Lucy Lawless and many others, said that energy minister Simon Bridges’ “new law is a sledgehammer designed to attack peaceful protest” and is “being bundled through Parliament without proper scrutiny despite its significant constitutional, democratic and human rights implications.

”Over 40,000 people have now added their name to the statement and, in a Horizon Research poll carried out last month, 79 per cent of those asked said that the earlier amendment should be withdrawn completely or sent back to a select committee of politicians for more scrutiny and more chance for the public to have a say.