East Coast oil, gas: Who decides?

COLUMN

Seismic surveying off the East Coast by Schlumberger’s ironically-named Amazon Warrior on behalf of Chevron and Statoil sends at least one important message. The petroleum industry hasn’t given up on New Zealand or the East Coast, in spite of the slump in global oil and gas markets.

Some companies have surrendered their permits and left, but a few like TAG have cut costs, focused on maintaining Taranaki production and are holding out for a market rebound. TAG certainly hasn’t given up on the East Coast. They claimed there could be billions of barrels of “potentially recoverable” oil and gas on the East Coast, prompting a company spokesperson to coin the phrase “Texas of the South”. Current CEO Toby Pierce recently announced that TAG plans to return to the East Coast for more exploratory drilling later this year.

All of this will come as either good news or a dire warning, depending on your political bent, economic self-interest, or level of social and environmental consciousness. But one thing all residents of the East Coast should be very concerned about is that, in spite of repeated government assurances, people have much less influence over regional development and resource management decisions than they used to.

My research into National’s legislative and regulatory reforms shows the public is no longer given the chance to participate in local sustainable-outcomes planning, has been excluded from commenting on proposed exploration blocks, is usually barred from making submissions on drilling consent applications, and protesters can be arrested for getting too close to drilling operations.

To my knowledge, there has never even been a public discussion paper on expanded oil and gas development or energy policy. Added to this are concerns about increased ministerial powers under the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill and what might come out of the Productivity Commission’s review of planning legislation.

Steven Joyce, John Key and Simon Bridges all visited the East Coast, particularly before the last election, encouraging people to “have a look” at oil and gas and giving the impression it was ultimately up to the citizens of the East Coast to decide. That’s not what the GDC found when they voted not to support the 2016 exploration block offer.

In my research, which has just been published, I’ve been particularly interested in documenting the Government’s legislative reforms, PR spin and other tactics to promote the petroleum industry — along with the strategies the industry itself has employed in collaboration with the Government, and the local protest movements that grew up in response.

For those interested in learning more about my research, and in particular the story of how the Government and the industry went about “Selling the East Coast”, I’ll be giving a presentation at Te Waananga o Aotearoa on February 20 at 5.30pm.

Seismic surveying off the East Coast by Schlumberger’s ironically-named Amazon Warrior on behalf of Chevron and Statoil sends at least one important message. The petroleum industry hasn’t given up on New Zealand or the East Coast, in spite of the slump in global oil and gas markets.

Some companies have surrendered their permits and left, but a few like TAG have cut costs, focused on maintaining Taranaki production and are holding out for a market rebound. TAG certainly hasn’t given up on the East Coast. They claimed there could be billions of barrels of “potentially recoverable” oil and gas on the East Coast, prompting a company spokesperson to coin the phrase “Texas of the South”. Current CEO Toby Pierce recently announced that TAG plans to return to the East Coast for more exploratory drilling later this year.

All of this will come as either good news or a dire warning, depending on your political bent, economic self-interest, or level of social and environmental consciousness. But one thing all residents of the East Coast should be very concerned about is that, in spite of repeated government assurances, people have much less influence over regional development and resource management decisions than they used to.

My research into National’s legislative and regulatory reforms shows the public is no longer given the chance to participate in local sustainable-outcomes planning, has been excluded from commenting on proposed exploration blocks, is usually barred from making submissions on drilling consent applications, and protesters can be arrested for getting too close to drilling operations.

To my knowledge, there has never even been a public discussion paper on expanded oil and gas development or energy policy. Added to this are concerns about increased ministerial powers under the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill and what might come out of the Productivity Commission’s review of planning legislation.

Steven Joyce, John Key and Simon Bridges all visited the East Coast, particularly before the last election, encouraging people to “have a look” at oil and gas and giving the impression it was ultimately up to the citizens of the East Coast to decide. That’s not what the GDC found when they voted not to support the 2016 exploration block offer.

In my research, which has just been published, I’ve been particularly interested in documenting the Government’s legislative reforms, PR spin and other tactics to promote the petroleum industry — along with the strategies the industry itself has employed in collaboration with the Government, and the local protest movements that grew up in response.

For those interested in learning more about my research, and in particular the story of how the Government and the industry went about “Selling the East Coast”, I’ll be giving a presentation at Te Waananga o Aotearoa on February 20 at 5.30pm.

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Thelma Karaitiana - 7 months ago
Tena koe Dr Loomis, I'm looking forward to your presentation and learning more about how the government enabled the economic and environmental reduction of Tangaroa. I reckon the timing of "Texas of the South" is great for the locals like me who are still growing our awareness of the issues associated with seismic surveying and drilling.

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