Protestors arrested at NZ Petroleum and Minerals Headquarters

By Te Ao Māori News

Protest and concern over the agreement by Government to open up almost 48,000 square kilometres in New Zealand for oil exploration continues.

A group of activists from Oil Free Wellington were arrested yesterday afternoon after locking themselves to the entrance of the NZ Petroleum and Minerals headquarters in Wellington in protest of the distribution of new oil and gas permits across New Zealand.

According to a statement issued by Oil Free Wellington spokesperson, Michelle Ducat. “2014 was the hottest year on record. The science of climate change is clear. We must act urgently to transition away from fossil fuels. We can’t sit by while our Government carves up our oceans and land for more fossil fuel exploration. In the face of the urgency of climate change, these Wellingtonians are using their bodies to get in the way of business as usual.”

Six permits have been granted for onshore exploration while nine have been granted for offshore exploration.

Concern has also arisen due to the issuing of an exploration permit to Chevron Oil the company which came under fire for an oil spill off the coast of Brazil three years ago which saw a total of 2,400 barrels spilled into the ocean.

According to Chevron General Manager, Liz Schwarze, “We were able to shut off the source of the hydrocarbons very quickly and bring the response team so that there was no impact to human safety and no impact to the environment.”

A total of 15 permits have been granted by the Government. Three of the largest permits have gone to Chevron off the East Coast of the North Island. Despite the disaster in Brazil the Minister says they weren't subject to heavier scrutiny.   

Minister of Energy and Resources, Simon Bridges says, "Im satisfied that the processes we have here mean we don't get cowboys we get players that can satisfy us."

Ms Schwarze told Te Kaea Chevron was "approved to return to production last year, so we have learnt from that and bring that.”

Chevron will work on the new permits alongside Statoil, which is continuing with its current permit in Northland-Reinga.

Statoil has spent a year there already, however, is still faced with protest by local communities. Another protest concert was held over the weekend.  

The Government says job creation is one of the benefits for communities such as Northland, however, Statoil isn't making any promises and says that's a long way off.

Te Taitokerau MP, Kelvin Davis is sceptical of the real benefits the local communities will truly gain from these ventures.

A launch will be held in March next year for Block Offer 2015.