Greenpeace and te Whānau-ā-Apanui unite to legally challenge deep sea oil permits

Tuesday 20 September 2011, 8:42AM
By Greenpeace New Zealand

Greenpeace and te Whānau-ā-Apanui today filed a judicial review challenging the Government’s decision to issue Brazilian oil giant Petrobras a permit for deep sea oil exploration off the East Cape.
This is the first time an oil permit has been challenged in the New Zealand courts on both environmental and Treaty of Waitangi grounds.

Greenpeace and te Whānau-ā-Apanui will argue the Government acted unlawfully by:

  • failing to properly consider the environmental impact of activities associated with the permit as required under international law (1);
  • failing to properly consider the potential effects on marine wildlife; the licences relate to areas close to environmentally-sensitive sites which support species such as whales and dolphins that are legally protected.
  • failing to properly undertake their requirements to have proper regard to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, including consultation with te Whānau-ā-Apanui;
  • failing to give consideration to the iwi’s fishing rights and customary title claims to the area.
  • The Statement of Claim filed today asks that the Petrobras permit be quashed.

“The Government is ignoring the lessons from the Deepwater Horizon blow out in the Gulf of Mexico. The BP spill was a game-changer, highlighting the very real risks of dangerous deep sea drilling for both important wildlife and the economy. Rather than approving ever riskier oil drilling projects the Government should be developing a comprehensive plan to end New Zealand’s dependence on oil,” says Greenpeace Climate Campaigner Steve Abel.

"Real economic security for New Zealand will come from developing our own green fuels and ramping up the efficiency of our public and private transport, not scraping the bottom of the oil barrel in fragile habitats and treacherous seas like those off the East Cape," adds Abel.

Rikirangi Gage, of te Whānau-ā-Apanui, says: "We have a sacred responsibility to protect and preserve our natural environment and the Government has a sacred duty under the Treaty of Waitangi to work alongside us to achieve this. The Government is continuing to fail both these obligations and is putting both the marine environment and our communities at risk.”

“Rather than pander to the interests of foreign oil companies, the Government must face up to the fact that the burning of fossil fuels is one of the major contributors to global climate change and that we must all join together as a nation to protect our children’s future,” he adds.

A judicial review is a legally-binding evaluation of the way the Government reached a decision, to see if the decision-making process was correctly followed.

If the judicial review is successful, the Petrobras permit would be quashed. The Government would have to reconsider Petrobras’ application and address any issues as directed by the final judicial review decision. This could include requirements to consider the environmental impacts, or to consult with te Whānau-ā-Apanui.