Taranaki iwi upset mining equipment could be discarded on seafloor

By Te Ao - Māori News

Taranaki iwi and Ngāti Tara hapū are concerned petroleum mining equipment, such as pipelines and cable, will be discarded on the seafloor in their rohe after the collapse of oil and gas explorer Tamarind Taranaki Ltd late last year. 

The concern has arisen after BW Offshore, which owns the storage vessel “Umuroa” to which Tamarind transferred oil and gas extracted from the Tui oil field, asked the Environmental Protection Agency for rulings that mana whenua say would allow the vessel to ‘disconnect and sail away’ from the field, leaving some petroleum mining equipment on the seafloor.

"Fundamentally, Taranaki iwi and the hapū of Ngāti Tara are opposed to this activity," Te Kāhui o Taranaki chairperson Leanne Horo says.

"Any decision to dump will set a dangerous precedent, especially during a time when new decommissioning regulations are being created to prevent irreversible legacy issues. This is not genuine engagement and will give industry a worse reputation than it already has amongst our people.”

Te Kāhui o Taranaki Pou Taiao Puna Wano-Bryant says the protection of the environment is a main focus of the iwi.

"Taranaki iwi focus on protecting, enhancing and sustaining the mouri of Tangaroa ki Tai. We are a coastal people and many of our traditions reflect continuous connection with our coastal marine environment,” Wano-Bryant says.

“Our Taranaki iwi environmental management plan, Taiao Taiora, requires an assessment of the cumulative impact associated with ongoing invasive activities such as leaving structures on the seabed. Taranaki iwi and Ngāti Tara were clear in all their engagements that all operators commit to the removal of all structures that are placed or deposited on the seabed. Tamarind agreed to this. 

“In Tamarind’s consent, the EPA included a specific condition for cessation of drilling works confirming that the structures that were placed on the seabed in order to undertake the drilling work are removed. If there is a technicality which excludes production infrastructure being removed such as wellheads and flowlines then we expect the Crown to step in.

"We welcome all people as visitors to our rohe and expect that if they make a mess they clean up all of it before they leave, not just half of it.”