Greenpeace today welcomed Labour leader Phil Goff’s acknowledgement that there is a direct link between the Rena oil spill, and plans to open New Zealand up to deep sea oil exploration.
Speaking on TV3’s Firstline programme this morning, Goff said that: “I think the opposition [to deep sea oil drilling] will grow if we can’t cope with one ship that grounds offshore only a matter of kilometres from a major port, and it takes us so long to respond to that, what chance would we have of a failed oil well, that was pouring, you know, hundreds of thousands of tonnes of oil into the sea?” (1).
Greenpeace NZ Climate Campaigner Steve Abel says in response: “Labour is recognising the obvious - that the national mood is swinging against deep sea oil drilling”.
He continued, “The Rena disaster is unfolding as a terrible reminder of the devastating impact that oil spills can have on our wildlife, coastlines and livelihoods”.
“People are now looking at the government’s proposals for deep sea oil drilling with fresh eyes. They can see the obvious – that if we can’t deal with a leak of thousands of litres in 100 metres of water just offshore how could we possibly hope to deal with a leak of millions of litres at depths of thousands of metres.”
“The cost to our economy and livelihoods could amount to billions if a major oil spill struck our precious coastal waters and it’s simply not worth the risk”, Abel added.
In 2010 BP’s Deepwater Horizon deep sea oil well disgorged 780 million litres of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over a period of 3 months and devastated both wildlife and local fishing and tourism. A major reason it took so long to stop the leak was the extreme depths the oil companies were drilling in.
The New Zealand government has already issued permits for exploratory drilling on the East coast of both the North and South Islands at depths even greater than Deepwater Horizon and is planning to further auction off the rights to deep sea oil drilling off more of the country’s spectacular coastlines.
Deep sea drilling risks any part of our country with a Bay of Plenty type disaster but on a much greater scale (2).
Abel concluded, “Two years ago we saw New Zealanders stand up to see off plans to open our best conservation land for mining and now, once again we need to stand up and stop deep sea oil exploration because our oceans and our coastlines are too valuable to gamble for oil”.
Greenpeace has been dealing with a surge of public interest following the Rena spill. Thousands of New Zealanders signed onto Greenpeace’s ‘No New Oil’ petition over the last week, with the total number of signatories now standing at almost 90,000,
(1) Excerpt from TV3’s Firstline programme 12th October 2011.
Goff: 1:54 for the future, if they want to have deep sea if they want to have deep sea drilling offshore, are we really properly equipped to deal with that with any catastrophe that might arise from that, as in the gulf of mexico all those questions have come to the fore.
Interviewer: It does show though as an island nation perhaps how ill-equipped we are, how exposed we are in the event of an oil spill, why push ahead with deep sea oil exploration, there will be further opposition to this now surely?
Goff: 2:12 I think the opposition will grow if we can’t cope with one ship that grounds offshore only a matter of kilometres from a major port, and it takes us so long to respond to that, what chance would we have of a failed oil well, that was pouring, you know, hundreds of thousands of tonnes of oil inot the sea, I think you’ve got to have a precautionary approach to that, no oil drilling, unless you can be sure that contingency plans are in place, and safety and environmental protection is adequate, I’m not certain that.
When it hit the reef near Tauranga the Rena was carrying two million litres of heavy fuel oil. This infographic shows how much that is in comparison to what is carried by an oil tanker or what would be leaked in a deepwater horizon type spill.