The potential for accidents with deep sea drilling is huge and a resulting oil spill would have devastating consequences.
The Rena Disaster
The 2011 Rena disaster has shown that New Zealand’s government is not equipped to deal with even a relatively small oil spill. The Rena spill devastated the Bay of Plenty and the impact on surrounding ecosystems may remain unknown for years. The consequences of a spill from offshore drilling would be much more devastating and, being a remote country, any outside help could take a long time to reach us.
The Reality of Deep Sea Drilling
The proposed drilling site of the Pegasus basin is near the Cook Strait which has been described as one of the most unpredictable and dangerous bodies of water in the world. Drilling in this area is very high risk.
The Cook Strait is in the known migration route of Humpback Whales, Sperm Whales, Blue Whales, Orcas, and Southern Right Whales. Not only would our fisheries be at risk from an oil spill but we would be placing yet another threat in the paths of these endangered species of whale.
The economic benefits from deep sea drilling are small, with New Zealand having the fourth lowest royalty rate in the world. The risks are high, and the jobs are largely offshore. Not only is deep sea drilling a risk to the environment and our communities but it is also of little or no economic value to New Zealanders.
The Gulf of Mexico Disaster
The Gulf of Mexico disaster is a terrifying glimpse of what we could face should offshore drilling occur in New Zealand. Anadarko owned 25% of the Deepwater Horizon rig that spilled some 190 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The explosion killed 11 men and destroyed the livelihoods of thousands of people. It killed millions of native creatures and devastated hundreds of miles of coastline. New Zealand is more remote, and a relief well would be weeks or months away, so a spill here could be even worse.
In 2011, a White House commission investigating the Gulf of Mexico disaster concluded that it was caused in part by BP and its partners making a series of cost-cutting decisions and not having a system sufficient to ensure well safety. It also concluded that the spill was not an isolated incident caused by “rogue industry or government officials,” but resulted from “systemic” root causes and, “absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, might well recur.”
Do we want a company with a known history of cost cutting which leads to disaster drilling in New Zealand waters?
Climate change is one of the most important and pressing issues facing humanity today.
Governments, businesses, communities and individuals globally now acknowledge that climate change exists, and its effects can be seen and felt today. In fact, climate scientists’ predictions have often under-estimated the global rate of warming and its effects.
Anthropogenic (human-caused) climate-change contributes to extreme weather-events including droughts, floods, storms and heat-waves. In New Zealand, an increase in droughts such as the “big dry” that covered the country this summer will continue to affect our agriculture-based economy, but many of the most devastating impacts of climate-change will first be felt by those in developing nations.
Oil Free Wellington works to highlight the climate justice implications of oil drilling. Climate justice recognises that underdeveloped or poor countries and peoples, especially Indigenous Peoples, small farming-based communities and women, will be and already are the hardest hit by the effects of climate change. However, the vast amount of historical responsibility for climate change lies with rich people, businesses and industrialised countries.Grassroots climate justice action is taking place around the world, to resist and take action against polluters and false solutions, draw attention to the real causes of climate change and promote real, community and locally driven solutions.
Our dependence on oil must end if we are to limit the effects of climate change. Investing in new oil-exploration programmes only makes it harder for us to extricate ourselves from the cycle of oil-dependence. Even the International Energy Agency has estimated that two-thirds of already-proven fossil-fuel reserves must be left in the ground in order to limit global average temperatures to two degrees above pre-industrial levels. With climate change already affecting the livelihoods of many, with current warming at only 0.7°C, it is clear that we need to move away from fossil fuels sooner rather than later.