Oil bigwigs to be confronted by human suffering

Press release - March 30, 2015
Dozens of Greenpeace activists will be poised outside entrances to a major petroleum conference this morning holding mural-sized photographs that depict the human and animal suffering of climate-related crises.

Oil bigwigs to be confronted by human suffering


Oil executives arriving at Skycity Auckland Convention Centre to attend the Advantage New Zealand Petroleum Summit will have no choice but to walk through a montage of images showing destruction caused by the oil industry and climate change such as drought, floods, pollution and oil spills.

It’s universally accepted that up to 80% of the fossil fuels we have on the books today can never be burnt if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Greenpeace climate and energy spokesperson Steve Abel says the aim of today’s protest is to show the 400 or so delegates at the summit that they and their industry must assume some responsibility for the terrible impacts of climate change.

“The reality is the delegates and politicians inside the convention centre are helping sustain an industry that is globally recognised for causing irreparable damage to the earth and human lives,” he says.

“These oil industry executives are people.  We are presenting them with the human face of terrible suffering - the cost of their industry - in a way that they can’t ignore. Our message is that they could apply their skills to clean energy instead.”

The subject of deep sea oil drilling in New Zealand has been a controversial one. Yesterday, crowds of people marched from Victoria Park to Skycity to demonstrate their opposition to the  government’s oil agenda.

Groups such as Greenpeace New Zealand, 350 Aotearoa, Kiwis Against Seabed Mining and Oil Free Auckland banded together to organise the march.
At the Advantage New Zealand Petroleum Summit this morning, energy and resources minister Simon Bridges is expected to announce the government’s 2015 block offers for petroleum exploration.
This would see more areas of New Zealand’s ocean being opened up to mostly foreign oil drillers to search for petroleum.

The offers are likely to include hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of our ocean territory off the West Coast of the North Island, stretching from Taranaki to beyond Northland; as well as large offshore tracts of the East Coast of the North and South Islands, from Hawke’s Bay to  south of Bluff.

Abel says even the initial process of searching for oil is a risky business.
It involves exploration ships emitting continuous seismic blasts from underwater airguns every few seconds, day and night. The blasts are so powerful they can be heard from over 100 km away.

“Even though the blasting is known to distress marine mammals, it’s being carried out right now over huge tracts of ocean and very close to the habitat of the critically endangered Maui’s Dolphin,” Abel says.

“There are only 55 of the subspecies remaining – I mean this is the world’s rarest dolphin - if the Government had its priorities right this wouldn't be happening at all.”

Deep sea drilling also risks a catastrophic oil spill that could irreparably damage our oceans, coasts, economy and way of life, he says.

Industry standard oil spill modelling shows that a deep sea oil blowout could devastate New Zealand’s coastlines, with Auckland’s West Coast beaches such as Piha and Muriwai potentially being some of the worst affected.

Niamh O’Flynn, The national coordinator of 350 Aotearoa, says we must listen to the warnings of leading scientists before the damage is irreversible.

“They’re saying we must urgently move away from burning oil and towards clean energy if we want to reduce the extreme droughts, storms and food shortages that climate change is bringing.”