The Governments oil salesman Simon Bridges just can’t catch a break these days. Whether it’s having to admit that he’d never even heard of NZ’s largest forest park (Victoria FP) which he’d just opened up to drillers or getting stick for allowing oil exploration in the home of the last 55 Maui’s dolphins on earth, it seems like everyone’s on his back.
Now it’s all happening again for poor Simon as he has to defend the Government spending the very “modest” sum of $240,000 of taxpayers’ money on wining and dining 11 oil executives for four days in 2011 – on top of the nearly $50 million a year in subsidies and tax breaks for the oil industry.
The government is clearly fully supportive of pulling out all the stops in the bid to impress here, even though the bill for food and drinks alone came out to about $500 a day for each of these executives. That’s a whole lot of fine wine, and top of the line fish and chips for some overseas oil executives from some of the richest companies on the planet. It’s a long way from the tourist experience New Zealand has become famous for – and a lot more expensive too (a fish and chips dinner comes in at a very reasonable $6 in Bobby’s Fresh Fish Market in Simon’s Tauranga constituency, if you’re curious).
The worst thing for Simon though is probably that all this has come to so little. Even though such huge environmental risks were taken, just this week the Wall Street Journal said that “NZ’s economy hasn’t benefited much from oil production”. Risky, untested deep sea drilling in New Zealand was always going to be a huge gamble, not only for the environment but also economically.