From now until the 30th of October local councils, iwi and hapū around New Zealand have the opportunity to take a position on deep sea oil drilling off our coast.

Every year the Government via NZ Petroleum and Minerals (NZPAM) proposes “block offers”. The ‘blocks’ are  huge swathes of our land, ocean and seabed that the Government wants to open up the following year to international oil companies to explore for oil and gas. The area that the Government has offered up this time – “Block Offer 2016” – is massive.  It is twice the size of New Zealand’s whole landmass, and includes nearly a quarter of the West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary where the critically endangered Maui dolphins live.

But before the Government sells off our oceans they have asked for submissions on the proposed block offer areas from councils, iwi and hapū. These authorities are the only bodies that get to have a formal say on the block offers because two years ago the Government passed a law to shut the general public out off this process.

Despite their attempts to silence the public, local opposition to deep sea oil has been building for years and the pressure is on for local councils and iwi and hapū to take a stand in their submissions and say ‘No’ to deep sea oil.

Here’s what happened in the previous Block Offer Consultations:

Block offer areas in the Raukumara Basin (off the the East Cape and Bay of Plenty) were met with staunch local opposition from Te Whānau-ā-Apanui.  That block offer has since been taken off the table.

In the 2015 submissions the following iwi and hapū authorities expressed opposition to oil exploration in their rohe:

•    Ahipara Komiti Takutaimoana opposed exploration and requested the exclusion of the entire proposed Block Offers in 2015
•    Tainui Hapū and Nga Hapū o Te uru requested that both the Block Offers off the West Coast of the North Island be removed from Block Offer 2015.
•    Rangitane o Tamaki nui a Rua Incorporated requested that the whole Pegasus Basin Block Offer be removed from Block Offer 2015.
•    Rūnanga within the wider Canterbury region, from the rohe of Waihao (near Oamaru) north to Kaikoura, opposed offshore petroleum exploration in the Great-South Canterbury Basin and Pegasus Basin.  As a result of this opposition, Ngāi Tahu requested the areas north of the Waihao river mouth (Oamaru) be removed from Block Offer 2015

Christchurch City Council stood up to the Government and said it is not worth the risk for them, and they do not want anyone drilling for oil off their coast.

Hot on the heels of Christchurch’s decision, thousands of people flooded Auckland councillors with email, text messages and phone calls telling them to say ‘NO’ to deep sea drilling off their coast too.  A big crowd turned up to the council meeting where they took a vote on the issue, and a chaotic meeting ensued.  The previous year only one councillor had voted against the drilling, but with all eyes on them the Council swung hugely in favour of saying no to deep sea oil – 9 votes against drilling and 9 votes for it.  Only the casting vote by the Chairman gave the approval to the Government’s risky plans. It was a massive swing for the country’s biggest council, and it sent a strong message to Government and the oil companies.

Here’s what didn’t happen last consultation round…

Councils, iwi and hapū authorities don’t have to make a submission and many haven’t. Out of 198 iwi and hapū authorities and 54 local council authorities, only 32 submissions were made – 12 from iwi and hapū, and 20 from Councils.  Here’s the map of block offers in 2015 and here’s some notable councils who kept silent;

The silent councils:

Northland Regional Council,
Whangarei District Council.
Kaipara District Council,
Waikato District and Regional Council
Gisborne District Council,
Central Hawkes Bay District Council.
Kapiti Coast District Council,
South Wairarapa District Council
Wellington City Council,
Timaru District Council
Environment Southland (Southland Regional Council)
Invercargill City Council

As we saw in the Gulf of Mexico the effects of a deep sea oil spill can be catastrophic, and the biggest risks and impacts land squarely on the local communities. Yet these local councils ducked their heads, accepted the risks without scrutiny or question, and hoped nobody would notice their silence.  We noticed.

Here’s what’s happening in this Block Offer consultation round:

Thousands of people are sending letters to Auckland Councillors again to demand that they make the right decision this time – Join the call here.

Wellington City Councillors are feeling the heat from local group Oil Free Wellington.  You can send a letter to Wellington city councillors here.

The Far North District Council is being petitioned by the Hokianga Environmental Protection Group.

Environment Southland are also being petitioned by Oil Free Southland.

And you can expect to see similar pressure on Dunedin, Christchurch and Whangarei Councils  soon from people and groups who have joined the call to #BlockTheOffer.

Join this facebook event to stay tuned to what’s going on and get involved in the campaigns to #BlockTheOffer over the coming weeks.

We’re looking for people to join us and lead the charge on their local councils in other areas (the ones not mentioned above).  Email us at for more info.

Let’s make sure we send a strong message to the Government and oil companies that New Zealanders do not want deep sea oil drilling.

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