Humpback whale breaching

Block the offer – Canterbury

Today, Christchurch City Council considered the National-led Government’s Block Offer 2017 proposal to tender for permits which allow companies to explore for oil and gas in New Zealand, including off the Canterbury coast .

Thankfully, the City Council voted by 15 to 1 not to support the proposal and to ask Ngai Tahu and Environment Canterbury Regional Council to submit. I’m proud to live in a city where our elected city councillors care about the environment and want to protect it.  Unlike the National Government, which doesn’t allow any public submissions on block offers, the City Council agreed to a presentation by Oil Free Otautahi. So well done to the new council for listening to the people and then acting.

Green shading shows the areas the Government is proposing to allow oil and gas drilling in. Credit: NZP&M
Green shading shows the areas the Government is proposing to allow oil and gas drilling in. Credit: NZP&M

It makes no sense at all to allow companies to come to the Canterbury region to explore for more oil and gas.  Our oceans off the Canterbury coast are worth protecting. We are lucky to have the Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary, home to the endangered Hector’s dolphin. And further north, Kaikoura is internationally renowned as a centre for whale watching. There is some protection for whales and fur seals but imagine an oil drilling rig in the seas where sperm whales feed.

All these marine mammals, fish, seabirds and other marine life need protecting from the risk of an oil spill. Oil exploration may sound fairly harmless, but it includes risky exploratory drilling. Exploratory drilling is the riskiest phase of oil production and can lead to horrendous accidents. The infamous Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico was from an “exploration” well.

Maui's Dolphin

Furthermore, our marine life needs protection from climate change.

We know that climate change is making our oceans more acidic. Studies have shown that a more acidic environment has a dramatic effect on organisms that have shells, such as mussels, oysters, clams, sea urchins, corals, and certain kinds of plankton. When these organisms are at risk, it may put the entire food web at risk.

If we want a stable climate, scientists say we can’t burn 75% of the fossil fuels that have already been discovered. So it is absurd to invite oil companies to look for more.

Unfortunately, despite the Christchurch City Council’s decision to oppose petroleum permits being granted off the Canterbury coast, the National Government is likely to go ahead and tender for them regardless.

We’ll find out in early 2017 whether the Government will listen to Christchurch City Council and the people of Christchurch on this issue.

In the meantime, kia kaha to Oil Free Otautahi and other groups and individuals who are protecting our environment and making their voices heard locally and nationally.  I applaud your work.  At the national level Green MP Gareth Hughes is continuing to campaign for no deep sea oil drilling.

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