Like the Arctic, the deep waters off the coast of New Zealand are under threat as oil and gas companies feverishly line up to start exploratory drilling operations in search of climate-destroying carbon fuel deposits.
In a new oil rush, exploratory drilling off the New Zealand coast during the southern hemisphere’s summer is expected to be the busiest in recent history, with an unprecedented three offshore rigs due to start drilling wells.
In particular, Texan oil company Anadarko, which was a 25% partner in BP’s doomed Macondo oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, has recently detailed where it plans to start drilling in coming months.
Anadarko said it would drill off the west coast of New Zealand’s north island near Raglan and in the rough waters not far from the Otago Coast, near Dunedin in the south and the world’s only mainland breeding colony of Royal Albatross. It also has oil exploration permits in a third area off the New Zealand coast.
The prospect of an oil and gas export boom is a dubious prize the New Zealand government is embracing, eager to beef up its export earnings at the expense of the global climate. And in its strongest signal yet to the rest of the world about where the government stands on climate change, New Zealand withdrew from the second commitment term of the legally binding Kyoto Protocol.
The government, which continues to offer onshore and offshore oil and gas exploration blocks for auction, has also proposed a new law that effectively shields the industry from scrutiny by green lighting offshore projects without the need for formal public consultation.
This move follows a recent law that criminalises certain aspects of protest at sea as the Wellington government moves to defend the interests of the oil and gas companies and undermine the right to peaceful protest.
The government is obviously wary following peaceful protests at sea by concerned New Zealand communities in 2010 against Brazilian oil giant Petrobras, which has since ditched any plans to drill in New Zealand waters.
As the warnings of catastrophic climate change continue to mount, we can only ask why the New Zealand government is putting our collective future at threat?
The International Energy Agency has warned that to keep global warming under the ‘acceptable’ limit of 2 degrees Celsius, two-thirds of the world’s proven fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground.
BP’s Gulf of Mexico disaster, the world’s worst ocean oil spill that directly implicated BP partner Anadarko, should also serve as a permanent reminder of the risks of deep sea oil drilling and the massive environmental and ecosystem damage a well blow-out can cause.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can help the New Zealand public defend their coastlines and seas against the industry’s threat by sending a message to the government opposing these new laws. The time to act is now.