Sea lion invasion

I went for a walk on Allans beach on Otago Peninsula a couple of days ago. There were more sea lions there than I’ve seen before, some sunning themselves on the beach, some surfing the waves and some swimming in the Inlet channel.

AllansSealion1qSummer holiday

AllansSealion2A crowded Dunedin beach (sea lion emerging from the surf)

But a bit further south yesterday the St Clair hot water pool had a closer encounter. It’s becoming common to see sea lions on St Clair/St Kilda beaches now but through two sets of self opening doors and a cafe is bit different.

ODT: Pool re-opens after sea lion visit

NZ Herald: Warm pool wins sea lion’s heart

Time out from Dunedin

There’s a range of good options if you want time out form Dunedin, one of the benefits of living here. I decided to head away for a few days.

The weather forecast wasn’t so good southwards so decided against Catlins (a range of beaches, waterfalls, forest and walks), Stewart Island or Fiordland, all within less than half a day drive.

I’d been throught Central Otago last week to Omakau (races) and St Bathans (Blue Lake) – this drive takes you from coast, hinterland to dry and rocky terrain past three mountain ranges in two hours – so decided against that.

I thought of a longer trip to Akaroa, but decided to keep it shorter.

So we left Dunedin heading north for about an hour and then hung a left inland just before Oamaru, through some interesting countryside with scattered limestone features. We didn’t bother stopping at Elephant Rocks this time becasue we’d spent time there last time through, but it’s well worth some time especially with children.

Witihin an hour we stopped at Kurow, on the Waitaki river before the dams. There’s not a lot to do here except fishing, but we wanted to have lunch and wine tasting at Pasquale - great food and drink, plus very good service with excellent wine knowledge.

After that we wanted to stay the night. The motel is as dated as they come but the accommodation options are limited. However the pub steak meal at Kurow Hotel was a s good and as big as they get.

This morning we headed up river where you soon encounter the dams and lakes, first the smallest and oldest, Waitaki. Next Aviemore. Then we stopped in at Benmore and walked across and back. It’s still an impressive dam.

Then we headed up further to Omarama in time for a very long lunch at LadyBird Hill. There’s plenty to do to fill in a mostly leisurely afternoon. The one thing we skipped was catching a salmon from their stocked pond and waiting for them to smoke it and serve it. We did have their salmon lunch though, too much to eat.

We headed uphill on their walk to settle the food down and take in the mountain views which even from Omarama are spectactular. While we were climbing a procession of gliders and their tow planes took off from the airport and were let loose at a good thermal, where at one stage we saw a dozen gliders spiraling up into the blue sky (it was clear and hot but with a nice cooling breeze).

Then we went back down and did a wine tasting – they have small quantity wine options which have to be considered with the recent law changes but we were traveling on foot so it didn’t matter.

Several hours later we mooched back to a much better motel. Here we had to decide what to do next.

The weather looks probbaly good enough so tomorrow we’ll go to Mt Cook, about an hour’s drive along the shore of Lake Pukaki. We’ll spend the day there, probably doing the walk to the Tasman Glacier terminal lake.

Because high season rates are so high we decided to book the night at Lake Tekapo, about an hour’s drive. What we do there and afterwards we’ll decide when we get there. I’d love to do an astronomy tour but will leave that until winter. It doesn’t get dark properly here until about 11 pm at this time of year.

This is all three days in easy reach of Dunedin, and is just one of several very contrasting options available for an excursion.

We live in a very nice part of a very nice country. How many places in the world would have such a range of options so handy?

David Clark on Otago gas exploration – yeah, nah

Dunedin City Councillor Andrew Whiley has taken a swipe at Dunedin North MP David Clark about his lack of support for gas exploration and potential business and jobs for Dunedin. ODT reports:

A Dunedin city councillor has accused Dunedin North Labour MP David Clark of putting votes before jobs as the debate over exploratory gas drilling heats up in the South.

The comments by Cr Andrew Whiley – a vocal supporter of gas exploration off the Otago coast – were made in his new role as spokesman for the gas supporters’ group Pro Gas Otago.

However, Mr Clark hit back yesterday, saying Cr Whiley’s summary was ”simplistic” and his group appeared to be ”parroting the National Party position”.

That sounds like Clark is putting politics before the people of Dunedin.

In his statement, released on Thursday afternoon, Cr Whiley said a member of the group had met Dunedin-based National MP Michael Woodhouse and Mr Clark to discuss Shell and Anadarko’s exploratory drilling plans.

Mr Woodhouse was ”very supportive” of the industry’s arrival but the group was ”disappointed” by Mr Clark, who ”felt that supporting this industry may cost him votes”, Cr Whiley said.

Cr Whiley yesterday, confirmed he had not been at the meeting, but stood by the comments anyway and urged Mr Clark to do more to support exploratory drilling.

”My view is: the same people who were campaigning for Hillside … should be in support of the jobs that could be created by exploration off the coast.

Publicly Clark (and Dunedin South colleague Clare Curran) has until now been mute on exploration. He responded to ODT:

Mr Clark said it was ”not true” he was putting votes before jobs.

”I did say that North Dunedin people are concerned about environmental outcomes and therefore wouldn’t be willing to support unregulated mining without appropriate checks and balances.

”I think the Dunedin North electorate is sophisticated enough to understand that appropriate development of mineral resources can support decent incomes, but are not willing to support mineral development at any cost.”

His view was consistent with that of Labour leader David Cunliffe, who earlier this week said the party supported deep sea oil and gas exploration ”in principle”, but would toughen environmental protection laws.

That sounds like fence sitting “yeah, nah” uncertainty. He doesn’t mention gas here, just mining and minerals but states something largely irrelevant – “wouldn’t be willing to support unregulated mining” –  mining and drilling are regulated, the question is how regulated it should be.

Clark has not expressed any support for oil exploration business or jobs in Dunedin here, he has vaguely parroted Labour’s vague position and attacked National.

This looks like party politics and elections first, Dunedin and jobs second, or third, or yeah, nah.

The prospects of Dunedin MPs working together for the best interests of the city and region don’t look good.

 

Oil opponents overstating support

There’s no doubt there is sizeable opposition to oil and gas exploration around New Zealand and off the Otago coast – they are campaigns with close connections to experienced opposers the Green Party and Greenpeace – but opponents are overstating their support. Talking up their support to the media follows similar tactics of previous campaigns using deliberate misinformation.

There are some actual numbers:

  • The Oil Free Otago Facebook page has 431 followers accumulated since 2 June 2013.  In comparison Pro Oil and Gas Otago started a Facebook page on Friday (10/01/2014) and 658 followers. These are rough indicators but neither are accurate measures of support as they can easily be stacked, and both have likes from around the country.
  • The ODT report that Campaign against oil drilling launched on Friday was “attended by about a dozen people”.
  • The Hands Off Our Harbour – National Deep Sea Drilling Protest at Port Chalmers yesterday (Sunday 12/02/14) – a flotilla blockade that was hindered by bad weather – was reported on ODT as “More than 250 protesters”.

The plastic flotilla of the Oil Free protest, Port Chalmers 12/01/2014

A Stuff report on Sunday claimed many more would attend the flotilla – Dunedin divided over deep-sea oil drilling.

Dunedin is split over the benefits of deep sea oil drilling, as 750 activists plan a blockade of Otago Harbour’s commercial shipping channel today.

One of the organisers, Niamh O’Flynn, has a history of exaggerating support for her campaigns, and yestarday was no exception in Newstalk ZB Otago residents angered by Shell plans:

“People are feeling like, we had 7000 people out on the beaches, we had overwhelming support for the Oil Free Seas flotilla, overwhelming support for this conference, and the Government and Shell suddenly announce that they’re going to do even more drilling than we originally thought.”

“Overwhelming” is overstating. They have significant support but they also have significant opposition.

A report on the flotilla protest Anti oil drilling protesters gather in Dunedin:

Heavy rain and strong wind hasn’t stopped hundreds of people turning up to vent their frustrations at the offshore drilling by Shell and Anadarko.

Oil Free Otago says the strong turn out in the freezing conditions shows Dunedinites don’t want offshore drilling in their backyard.

Language like “shows Dunedinites don’t want offshore drilling” is typical and misleading. Some Dunedinites don’t want exploration. Some do. Some don’t care.

Politicians have also claimed support that is dubious or they won’t (and can’t) substantiate.

Dunedin City Councillor Jinty MacTavish on her Facebook page:

Over 87% of submitters to a recent consultation we held on oil and gas exploration, told us they didn’t support it off our coast. If that is even vaguely close to an accurate reflection of public opinion, it suggests our city collectively opposes the activity.

But using ratepayers’ resources to convince a company whose activities we apparently collectively oppose to choose Dunedin as their base…

Submissions are often part of organised campaigns, they can in no way be taken as a measure of public support and certainly can’t be claimed as suggesting “our city collectively opposes“.

I challenged Cr MacTavish on this and she responded:

 I qualified my statements above by saying things like “If that is even vaguely close to an accurate reflection of public opinion…”

She must know it is not an accurate reflection of public opinion. If she didn’t she does now.

Green co-leader Metiria Turei also makes a sweeping claim on Facebook, commenting on Oil Free Future Summit Registration 2014 she said:

Definitely going and supporting, a much needed chance for us all to send a message that deep sea oil drilling is NOT WELCOME in Dunedin.

I challenged her on this and she didn’t respond, although some of her supporters said she spoke for them. And attacked me, bizarrely I was attacked and accused, for example:

Desi Liversage Obviously Pete, you are the spokesperson for business. You and the ODT.

While I don’t speak for them there are people in business who support exploration and there are other people who support getting gas exploration support business in Dunedin.

And the ODT speaks (with various voices and opinions) for more Dunedin and Otago people than the Green Party and anti-oil activists.

Opinion on gas exploration is mixed. There is strong opposition but there is no indication this is from anything other than a minority of anti-activists and the Green Party, both experienced on campaigning and talking up their levels of support.

The only way of determining levels of support and opposition of Dunedin and Otago people is by measuring it. Unless that is done grandiose claims of major or universal opposition should be treated with suspicion.

Mayor and councillor aligned on oil ethics

Dunedin City councillor Jinty MacTavish has been promoting classifying the oil industry as “unethical” alongside the tobacco and armaments industries. Mayor Dave Cull has used similar terminology.

MacTavish on her Facebook page:

Working to attract unethical industry to our city (and expending ratepayers’ resource to do so) feels to me a highly dubious activity for Council to be engaged in. I would very much hope we wouldn’t do it for cigarettes or munitions – what’s the difference with oil and gas, when science tells us the fruits of that industry will also erode the livelihoods of, and cause misery for, millions of people?

(Water erodes the livelihoods of, causes misery for millions of people. Is supplying water unethical?)

I’m curious to hear your perspectives, folks. The Waipori Fund is designed to provide a dividend to Council, to offset rates. It’s currently not invested in tobacco or armaments, presumably because the fund manager considered these unethical. Personally, I question the ethics of $1.7M of it being invested in fossil fuel companies. Council will be considering whether we need to adopt some formal ethical investment guidelines for the Fund, later in the month. What, if anything, do you think Council should be avoiding investments in?

Dave Cull interviewed on One News – Dunedin invests $1.7m in oil companies:

Up to this point the policy has been that the treasury company can invest in a number of things including oil companies, there are probably a number of things, the parameters off the top of my head would not allow them to invest in, for example armaments or tobacco or whatever, but up to this point that’s been the policy.

Are these comparisons, or are Cull and MacTavish working together on this?

“Up to this point” is presumably a reference to the ethics of investments being under review.

MacTavish seems keen on making investments in oil and gas banned as unethical.

But using ratepayers’ resources to convince a company whose activities we apparently collectively oppose to choose Dunedin as their base, feels to me as unethical as it does stupid**. If Council is in the business of wooing multinational coorperations to set up shop in Dunedin (which seems a questionably approach to economic development anyway) we could at least choose one that enhanced our brand and city offering, rather than detracting from it.

In my view, Council investments (whether staff time or cash), should be informed by its community’s views on what it’s right and ethical to be involved in. Thanks to submissions made to last year’s Annual Plan, we’ll be considering a ethical investment guidelines for the Waipori Fund in a few weeks time (will keep you posted on that). Perhaps there’s merit in considering extending those guidelines to cover other areas of Council investment (like staff time).

She is also proposing that any council involvement in oil and gas be ruled out as unethical.

How involved with this strategy is mayor Cull? Is there a wider plan to exclude any involvement with oil and gas?

Turei on offshore exploration

Green co-leader Metiria Turei makes here position on offshore exploration clear on Facebook, commenting on Oil Free Future Summit Registration 2014 she said:

Definitely going and supporting, a much needed chance for us all to send a message that deep sea oil drilling is NOT WELCOME in Dunedin.

I asked her “Who are you speaking for? I think you’ll find that there is a wide range of opinions and there is quite a bit of support for business opportunities and jobs from drilling in Dunedin.”

Two people indicated she spoke for them. Turei didn’t respond directly but added a general comment:

Well, as much as I like to keep my opinions to myself… I am quite disgusted with the oil industry attempt to divide and rule both within Dunedin/Otago and between Otago and Southland.

According to the ODT, they haven’t decided which Southern city is most deserving of their economic largesse, Dunedin or Invercargill. We have to compete for their financial affections apparently. I am aware of a couple of finger gestures that would indicate an appropriate response…

That’s a curious angle. There is very divided opinion on whether exploration should happen or not but I don’t think that’s driven by the oil industry, it’s driven by an anti-oil lobby, a pro-business lobby and a general wish for more jobs in Dunedin and Otago.

A two fingered salute from Greens isn’t surprising, but they don’t speak for all of Dunedin or all of Otago. From feedback I’ve had a few two fingered salutes are being returned.

An ‘Anadarko – Wish You Weren’t Here’ campaign was launched in Dunedin yesterday. It was attended by Green energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes – and about eleven other people according to an ODT report – Campaign against oil drilling launched.

That small ‘not welcome’ message was only from a small part of Dunedin, with a political import.

More on unethical oil and gas

Following her suggestion that the oil and gas industry was unethical (likening it to tobacco and munitions – see Oil and gas unethical?) Dunedin Councillor Jinty MacTavish has been asked on Facebook:

“Presumably you are going to take a principled stand and boycott all the products of the oil and gas industry as you believe they are unethical?”

She responded:

I personally don’t own a private motor vehicle – I ride, walk and bus as much as I possibly can – and I take other measures to reduce my carbon emissions as far as practicable.

Yes, because of the society we live in and the systems our society has built over time, all of us rely on fossil fuels to some extent or another, and I’m no different. I’m super aware of that, and it’s entirely possible I will look back in 10 years time and wish I’d taken steps to further reduce my carbon consumption.

An option that’s available to me would be to try to avoid any part of our society that uses fossil fuels…but making that call would mean I couldn’t contribute much to changing the system!

For me, it’s not about judging people for their use of fossil fuels, it’s about acknowledging that we’re all in this boat together, and that we collectively need to be moving away from damaging fuel sources.

In my view, it’s a challenge for our whole society, and we need a society-wide response – to change this to the extent that we possibly can, to avoid the misery that would be associated with climate change over 2 degrees of warming.

I’m not perfect, I don’t claim to be – but I don’t think that makes additional fossil fuel exploration a more sensible or ethical thing to be investing ratepayers’ resources in.

That acknowledges the reality of the pervasiveness of oil use in our society.

It also appears to soften her stance on “unethical” in relation to oil and gas, moving from an absolute to a more towards a relative level of ethics – but it’s not clear what that’s relative to.

Yesterday I asked Cr Mactavish:

“If Dunedin could secure enough business and economic benefits from gas drilling and recovery off our coast to enable us to invest in much better energy efficiency and alternatives to oil/gas powered transport, thereby enabling a significant reduction in fossil fuel use, what would your position be on it?”

She hasn’t responded yet.

Oil and gas unethical?

Dunedin City councillor Jinty MacTavish suggests oil and gas is unethical, and she wants council guidelines that rule out using staff time or resources on anything deemed to be unethical.

Hello Dunedin! I’m keen for some feedback here.

Working to attract unethical industry to our city (and expending ratepayers’ resource to do so) feels to me a highly dubious activity for Council to be engaged in. I would very much hope we wouldn’t do it for cigarettes or munitions – what’s the difference with oil and gas, when science tells us the fruits of that industry will also erode the livelihoods of, and cause misery for, millions of people?*

Over 87% of submitters to a recent consultation we held on oil and gas exploration, told us they didn’t support it off our coast. If that is even vaguely close to an accurate reflection of public opinion, it suggests our city collectively opposes the activity. In that context, how comfortable would our citizens be with the Council actively seeking to maximise financial gain from that same activity?

Council could seek to do this in two ways:-
1. Using staff time or resources, or investing in infrastructure to help ensure Dunedin becomes the base of choice for oil companies.
2. To continue to seek distribution of royalties (the money the O&G companies pay the government) more locally.

Councillors’ views of the approaches were canvassed by the ODT yesterday, and some of the feedback they got is in today’s article – http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/287660/oil-gas-base-host-race

To me, advocating for the second feels like a more ethical approach than the first. It is the Government that is imposing this on the regions – it’s not a choice that the regions have made. Therefore advocating for what is in effect compensation from the Government for their actions, feels like a reasonably ethical stance. But using ratepayers’ resources to convince a company whose activities we apparently collectively oppose to choose Dunedin as their base, feels to me as unethical as it does stupid**. If Council is in the business of wooing multinational coorperations to set up shop in Dunedin (which seems a questionably approach to economic development anyway) we could at least choose one that enhanced our brand and city offering, rather than detracting from it.

In my view, Council investments (whether staff time or cash), should be informed by its community’s views on what it’s right and ethical to be involved in. Thanks to submissions made to last year’s Annual Plan, we’ll be considering a ethical investment guidelines for the Waipori Fund in a few weeks time (will keep you posted on that). Perhaps there’s merit in considering extending those guidelines to cover other areas of Council investment (like staff time).

I’d welcome your thoughts…

I welcome thoughts on this too.

Is using oil and gas unethical? Or just oil and gas recovered in New Zealand?

Sourced from Facebook: Councillor Jinty MacTavish

Dunedin council divide on gas exploration

The Dunedin City Council is divided over seeking support business from gas exploration, and the mayor Dave Cull reveals he is still conflicted. ODT – City in race to host supply base:

Mr Cull also said the idea would be worthy of consideration if a case for it could be made, such as improving emergency response times.

Royalties from oil and gas revenue could help cover the debt-servicing costs associated with such an investment, but only if the Government agreed to share them with councils, he said.

The council would ”certainly consider” investment in infrastructure or other incentives to support the industry in Dunedin, but the oil companies’ needs would only become clear in time, he said.

That’s a fudgier response than yesterday:

Dunedin mayor Dave Cull told Radio New Zealand’s Summer Report programme he personally favours the development of renewable fuels to combat climate change, but his council will try to maximise the economic benefit of the drilling.

I wonder if Jinty MacTavish has had words with him

Cull keeps talking about local royalties but that’s very unlikely. He should know this, maybe he is using them to leave an excuse to oppose.

Deputy mayor and others:

Some councillors were quick to celebrate, Cr Andrew Noone saying it was ”fantastic news”.

”It’s now a two-horse race, so we have got a 50% chance of securing a supply base,” he said.

Deputy mayor Chris Staynes agreed, saying news of Shell’s test drill was ”great”, while Cr Andrew Whiley described Shell’s announcement as ”simply awesome”.

All three men hoped the industry would eventually provide a much-needed boost for the city’s ailing economy, but Cr Staynes also suggested Dunedin could do more to secure hosting rights for any logistics base that might follow.

Green councilors in Dunedin don’t want  any gas or oil exploration.

… other councillors maintained their opposition to the industry, including Cr Aaron Hawkins, who said the council had a ”moral obligation” to protect the interests of future generations.

”I don’t think it’s fair to clamour over a few jobs now and leave our grandchildren to pick up the tab environmentally and economically.

”Frankly, I think that’s a very selfish way of looking at economic development.”

Cr Jinty MacTavish agreed, saying the city would not spend money to try to attract the ”unethical” tobacco industry, and should avoid the oil and gas industry for the same reasons.

”It’s an unethical business and I wouldn’t like to see Dunedin setting out to attract it.”

So they are against it ideologically.

Three other councillors, Crs Neville Peat, David Benson-Pope and Richard Thomson, “expressed either concern or outright opposition”.

Four – Doug Hall, Hilary Calvert, Mike Lord and Lee Vandervis – “welcomed Shell’s plans”.

John Bezett and Kate Wilson could not be contacted

That’s five against, seven for, two not determined and a conflicted mayor who is getting pressure from the business community as well as from his Green lobbiests.

Dunedin doesn’t get to decide if drilling happens but they do have a chance to contest the support business.

Dunedin mayor backs economic benefit of gas exploration

A surprise position from Dunedin mayor Dave Cull on the offshore gas exploration:

Dunedin mayor Dave Cull told Radio New Zealand’s Summer Report programme he personally favours the development of renewable fuels to combat climate change, but his council will try to maximise the economic benefit of the drilling.

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/232761/dunedin-tipped-as-gas-exploration-base

Listen to Dave Cull on Summer Report

I and others tried to push him on this during the mayoral campaign and made sure it was a prominent issue. He tried to avoid it, he tried to appease both camps, and he flip flopped. He ended up sort of at this position but he wouldn’t clearly state it.

Good to see him back the economic benefits. It would have been very awkward for him to have opposed them today, with the announcement that Macraes mine to axe 106 jobs which is another blow to Dunedin and Otago employment.

And despite expected competition for the benefits:

Southland leaders such as South Port chief executive Mark O’Connor are celebrating the drilling plan but not expecting to benefit directly this time.

“It’s highly likely, depending on the final location they identify, that it may well be closer to Dunedin and therefore it makes sense to service that initial exploration project from Otago.”

This seems to signal that Dunedin is likely to get the most benefits.

Otago Regional Council chairman Stephen Woodhead welcomed the news and echoed Mr McIntyre’s comments the city needed to make the best of the opportunity to show it could provide the required infrastructure.

”Port Otago has been in communication with Shell and its partners over the years. Again, there is a long lead-in period to this, so we are not getting overexcited.

“But we have the mix of a safe deepwater port and an engineering base in Dunedin. The mix of infrastructure and expertise in and around Dunedin would make the city the logical choice.”     

http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/287558/dunedin-urged-show-it-can-support-shell

This all looks promising for Dunedin.

But it won’t be without significant protest. Radio NZ:

Anti-drilling protest

Anti-oil activists are running a protest summit this weekend in Dunedin, and a spokesperson for Oil Free Otago, Niamh O’Flynn, says Dunedin should be seeking jobs in cleaner, greener industries.

Ms O’Flynn said the protest will include a symbolic blockade of part of Otago Harbour. “We need to be standing our ground and saying ‘no we’re not having this industry here and and we need to be looking for jobs in sectors that are going to be long term and actually provide jobs for our people.”

A generally wary post  Shell and the Great South Basin bsrpout points out the positives alongside his (genuine and reasonable) concerns:

 If the industry is as successful as Taranaki, around 800 new jobs will be created. 

That would be significant in Otago (or Southland).

I wonder if they change their name to Gas Free Otago. Shell don’t expect to find oil.

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