Māori take off-shore oil drilling opposition to UN

By Leo Horgan

Seismic testing, oil drilling and indigenous rights are at the forefront of the agenda for Māori as they head to New York today for the United Nations Ocean Conference.

Indigenous oil opposition group Te Ikaroa will be sending a delegation including academics, environmentalists, activists, and traditional ocean voyagers. The journey follows on from a successful intervention placed before the United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues last month, which highlighted the way in which the seismic testing violates indigenous rights through the disruption of local marine ecosystems

"Our subsistence traditions depend on healthy marine ecosystems and there is now a significant body of science that upholds our concerns about the damage of seismic testing" says Tina Ngata, campaign spokesperson. "For this reason and more, over 80 indigenous communities have voiced their objection to the seismic testing being carried out by Statoil and Chevron along our coastline.

“Our petition to the Norwegian government has over 23 thousand signatures from New Zealanders who join us in objection and we will be seeking to present this to Norwegian representatives while there".

The conference runs from Monday 5th- Friday 9th of June and will cover a range of topics under the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14: Healthy Oceans. Tina Ngata says that one particular area of focus will be the discussions around the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

"The Convention predates much of the progress that we've made internationally around indigenous rights and has yet to be brought into alignment with important documents like the United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” says Ngata.

“We will be lobbying heavily for an amendment to allow for indigenous oversight of the Convention and its implementation. The Pacific is indigenous territory - we have made families on the Ocean, fed from it, cared for it and voyaged it for countless generations now and that needs to be recognised and allowed for".