‘Hasty’ lawmaking may lead to increased emissions

The Government surprised many with an announcement that they would limit future oil and gas exploration. Some hailed it as a sign they were serious about reducing fossil fuel use and reducing carbon emissions, but others have warned that it may actually increase emissions as people are forced to switch from gas to more polluting fuels.

Reductions in energy use and a switch to alternative energy would help alleviate the situation, but the Government has done little but talk about any of this side of the energy equation.

ODT:  Effect of ‘hasty’ law-making

The hasty passing of legislation banning offshore oil and gas exploration is another example of how little the Government is considering the longer term implications of its ideologically-driven law-making.

Our country’s ongoing energy security is an issue for all New Zealanders, but the Crown Minerals (Petroleum) Amendment Bill, passed under haste on November 7, will impact significantly on this.

It deserved far more consultation and analysis than was permitted by its fast-tracking.

The Minister for Energy Dr Megan Woods admitted that no assessment had been undertaken of just how the ban imposed by the new law would lower greenhouse gas emissions, or what the economic fallout will be.

Some commentators argue the ban will actually lead to an increase in carbon emissions, because in the absence of a new gas supply coming on stream here, users will either be compelled to import fuel potentially from less environmentally-conscious producers or switch to coal, which is hardly an eco-friendly substitute.

Furthermore, energy costs are likely to increase, which will hurt not only our economy but the most vulnerable in society.

Many New Zealanders may not be aware that our current gas supply is likely to last for just seven more years and production volumes will diminish from 2021 onwards.

Given that the Government has effectively ruled out new offshore oil and gas exploration; and the fact onshore activity is unlikely, our chances of finding alternative gas supplies within our jurisdiction rest on prospecting activities permitted before the legislation came into force. Two of these are in South Island waters, off the coast of Otago and Southland.

But the business of realising a commercially viable discovery on a hydrocarbon prospect is a lengthy and complicated one. There is no certainty of outcome; the historic chances of success are one-in-five. Should either of these prospects fall inside those odds, however, the ensuing development offers our region and our country many benefits, even as we move towards a carbon-free future.

Of course, let’s not forget the hydrocarbons lying beneath the ocean floor are a carbon-based energy source, something we’re moving away from. But gas is a cleaner-burning fuel than oil or coal. Surely, as we move towards a carbon-zero future, a transition away from oil and coal using cleaner fuels is the most sensible option to enable us to continue to be productive.

New Zealand Oil & Gas chief executive Andrew Jefferies has said that if our dairy plants transitioned from coal to natural gas, and if fertiliser and methanol plants could be built here, New Zealand gas would be better for the Earth than alternative energy sources such as Canadian tar sands, or bitumen from Venezuela.

Everyone acknowledges that we need to move away from the consumption of fossil fuels, but until sufficient alternative energy sources are found we need to secure our energy future so we can sustain our economy and our homes.

-NZ Oil & Gas has until April 2019 to commit to drilling off Oamaru, and April 2020 to similarly commit to the Toroa permit, south of Dunedin. OMV was granted a two-year extension in October, pushed out to July 2021, to drill an exploratory well off Otago’s coast.

The Government rushed through a ban on more exploration, something that thrilled Greens and dismayed NZ First, hobbling the cart before they have found a replacement for the horse.

Perhaps this year they will come up with an alternative energy plan.

Greens pushing to end oil and gas exploration

Gareth Hughes has had a low profile as a Green MP for some time, but he is upping his efforts to end oil and gas exploration.

Newsroom:  Greens want Labour to toughen gas ban

A supplementary order paper from Green MP Gareth Hughes threatens to rip the scab off the Government’s contentious ban on new offshore oil and gas exploration.

The Government announced an end to the issuing of exploration permits for offshore oil and gas exploration in April.

The ban did not affect existing permit holders, who were free to continue extracting oil and gas.

But as backlash mounted against the ban, the Government granted a significant concession to exploration companies.

Hughes has used a supplementary order paper (SOP) to try to overturn Woods’ decision. An SOP allows MPs to amend legislation that is currently before the House.

But the proposal has come at an awkward time for the Government.

A perfect storm of catastrophes has exposed just how reliant New Zealand is on gas. Unseasonably cold weather and low water levels at the South Island’s hydro-lakes has meant electricity generators have had to use gas and coal.

Unfortunately, two outages at the Pohokura gas field and essential maintenance on the Maui pipeline has meant New Zealand’s gas resources haven’t been ready to pick up the slack left by depleted hydro-lakes.

This has sent wholesale electricity prices soaring .The average wholesale price for most of October was $300 per MWh. Last October the average was just $102 per MWh.

I use Flick for power. They are usually quite reasonable, but my last two power bills have jumped up, with one over double the previous week ($100 for a week).

Hughes says the loophole means offshore drilling could continue indefinitely, defeating the purpose of the ban. He has called on Labour and New Zealand First to back him.

“The whole point of ending future offshore permits was to ensure a smooth transition away from fossil fuels. To extend existing permits defeats the purpose,” he said.

But due to us being far from reducing our dependence on fossil fuels a reduction in gas recovery risks forcing us to use less clean energy, and forcing us to import more fossil fuels.

 

Gareth Hughes versus Megan Woods on oil and gas exploration

Green MP Gareth Hughes has made it clear that he and the Green party disapprove of a concession given to the oil and gas exploration industry, as announced by Minister of Energy Megan Woods.

Hughes in a speech in parliament in March:  End Oil Exploration, General Debate Speech

While the media debate the pros and cons of oil exploration you can’t debate the physics of climate change.

Scientists warn we can’t afford to burn 75% of the fossil fuels we’ve already discovered if we want to avoid dangerous climate change.

A study in Nature Communications last year found if we burn all available fossil fuels, we’ll cause the fastest climate change in 420 million years!

Exploring for more oil is like pouring petrol into an already filled gas tank and lighting a match.

This is the nuclear-free moment of our generation.

We find ourselves at an important historic turning point – will we continue exploring for new oil and gas that we can’t afford to burn?

To get there we need to transition away from fossil fuels like oil.

Given some existing permits don’t expire until expire 2046 we need to stop granting more.

That’s why I’m calling on the government to stop offering new exploration permits for fossil fuels.

Our future isn’t more oil rigs off our coasts it’s wind turbines on our hills, insulation under our roofs, solar panels on top; modern public transport in our cities and sustainable zero-carbon jobs in our regions.

I support the end to exploration.

On Monday: Bill to end new offshore oil and gas permits a win for the planet

The Green Party welcome the introduction of the Crown Minerals Amendment Bill, which will legislate to officially stop new offshore oil and gas exploration permits.

“This is a special day for the planet, and proof that this Government are now meaningfully acting to address climate change”, Green Party energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes said today.

“This is Greens in Government at its best and represents an important step to stopping new offshore permits, so that our environment is better protected.

“We’re looking forward to the upcoming wider review of the Act. We will push hard to change the purpose of the Act so that exploration is ‘regulated’, not ‘promoted’ by this Government.

Surprisingly given the Green Party’s in ending the use fossil fuels and ending oil and gas exploration it looks like they were blind sided by Woods’ announcement on Tuesday:

Mining companies with existing licenses for drilling have a time limit on when they can explore. If they reach the time limit, their permits are handed back to the Crown.

Oil drillers shouldn’t be offered special treatment to extend or waive that time limit. I struggle to see the point in banning offshore exploration for oil and gas if existing companies with huge blocks can hold off from exploring until way later down the track.

Hughes followed up in Parliament yesterday:

Question No. 7—Energy and Resources

7. GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Does she stand by her reported statement that she will “consider giving the oil companies more time to fulfil their commitments on the permits”; if so, which permits are currently facing a “drill or drop” decision in the next two years?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Energy and Resources): Yes, I am in discussion with officials regarding the possibility of exercising my statutory powers, as the responsible Minister, to make changes to petroleum exploration permits. Any such change would be made on a case by case basis under the current law. There are 16 permits with “drill or drop” decisions in the next two years. More information about all active petroleum exploration permits, including “drill or drop decision” points, is publicly available on the New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals website. As the member is aware, our Government is committed to a long-term transition away from reliance on fossil fuels, and the introduction of legislation this week reflects exactly that commitment.

Gareth Hughes: Does she stand by the Government’s historic decision to halt offshore oil and gas exploration, and if so, does she think a long tail of up to 16 active permits undermines this decision?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: In answer to the first part of the question, yes, and in answer to the second part, no. As we’ve been clear, the Government is committed to a long-term transition away from fossil fuel exploration and a clear plan for our future. We’re achieving this by issuing no further offshore exploration permits, while also protecting the existing exploration permits that cover 100,000 square kilometres, to enable a smooth transition over the coming decades. This is a sensible approach that allows regions, communities, industry, and the workforce a just transition to a low-carbon future and avoids sudden economic shocks like we saw in the 1980s.

Gareth Hughes: Does she agree with recent comments by our climate ambassador Jo Tyndall that this Government has sent a clear signal to industry that we are phasing out oil and gas extraction, and if so, does relaxing the work programme deadlines on permits undermine that message?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I do agree and am proud that we are ending offshore exploration and are committed to a just transition, and we’re not relaxing those conditions.

Gareth Hughes: If the Minister grants extensions to any offshore permits, will she limit their duration, and if so, what time frame will she use?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: As I indicated in my primary question, each of these needs to be on a case by case basis, and I will consider those applications on a case by case basis.

Gareth Hughes: Will the Minister commit to passing more wide-ranging changes to the Crown Minerals Act (CMA) this term to ensure New Zealand does transition away from fossil fuel extraction?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: As the member knows, the first tranche of the CMA reforms was introduced this week. This legislation is to give effect to the Government’s decision about the future of offshore petroleum exploration. Our intention is to begin tranche two following the passage of this legislation, and we’ve long signalled that tranche two will involve a comprehensive review of the CMA and will engage with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure the legislation is fit for purpose as we make this transition. The Government’s decision about—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! That’s enough. That’s enough.

Hughes followed that up:

Hughes is the Green Party spokesperson for Energy & Resources. It seems odd that he hasn’t been closer to Woods and what she is doing and announcing on this – has she ignored Hughes and the Greens?

Surprisingly there is no mention of fossil fuels or oil and gas in the Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement.

And as Climate Change Minister where is James Shaw on this? Last week in an email to party supporters – James Shaw promoting Green achievements

Being in Government means we can deliver on our Confidence and Supply Agreement – but it also means so much more. For instance, we got an end to new exploration for offshore oil and gas – yet this wasn’t covered in our agreement.

It seems that they didn’t get as much as they thought they had.

 

‘A bit of a backdown’ on oil and gas exploration annoys Greens

It appears that the government has backed off a bit on it’s contentious ban on new oil and gas exploration, which was applauded by environmentalists and slammed by Taranaki business interests in particular. Is has been pointed out that it could lead to higher carbon emissions as more alternatives were sourced from overseas.

Hamish Rutherford (Stuff):  Symbolic backdown undermines Government’s untidy oil move

After all the hype, the Government’s troubled path to ending new oil exploration has a bizarre sting in the tail: a bit of a backdown.

In the hours before she announced a law change to give effect to decisions announced in April, which mean no new offshore permits, Energy Minister Megan Woods met with the industry to deliver a piece of good news.

Oil explorers facing deadlines on their permits to either commit to exploration wells or relinquish the permits – referred to as “drill or drop” – are likely to be given more breathing space.

It seems the deadline to drill could be pushed back for years, although Woods has not given details other than that she will consider giving more time on a case-by-case basis.

In terms of concessions, it looks like no big deal, given the Government is changing the legislation that frames the sector. No-one in the industry will celebrate this as a victory, given the overall impact of the moves by the Government.

But it seems like Woods is trying to head off a potentially major “what if?” headache.

As it stands, the Barque prospect off the coast of Oamaru will be lost forever if New Zealand Oil and Gas (NZOG) does not find partners willing to commit to the major cost of drilling, by early 2019.

Although the odds of success are put at only one in five, NZOG has claimed that, if successful, Barque could transform New Zealand’s energy outlook, with thousands of jobs and tens of billions of revenue.

Seen this way, Woods’ gesture to the industry looks like a major contradiction of the Government’s plan, to set New Zealand on a renewable future.

Reality wins over idealism?

Greens are not happy.

Both Greenpeace and the Green Party are furious, with the Government’s partners warning it waters down the moves made so far.

Given where we have come from, the latest move should be no surprise.

On a sunny day in March, Ardern walked down the steps of Parliament to greet Greenpeace activists, delivering a major shock that the Government was “actively considering” their call to end oil exploration. Although her speech was more symbol than substance, it was clear major plans were afoot.

As it turned out, the Government was not really considering anything, and it certainly did not want much in the way of advice.

Less than a month later, Ardern would lead a group of ministers into the Beehive theatrette to announce the decision, giving the impression that ministers had considered the matter.

In fact, all that had happened was that the leaders of Labour, NZ First and the Greens had reached a deal. Cabinet had no input in the decision.

Officials were so furious at being sidelined from the decision that it was leaked, spoiling Ardern’s plan for a dramatic announcement at Victoria University.

Greenpeace and the Green Party furious. Officials furious. Officials furious. It looks like this was rushed and bungled.

It should be remembered that this advice comes from bureaucrats who have not only been ignored in the actual decision-making, they are giving advice on a decision that could kill the sector they work in.

Seizing on the fact that – as in all long-term forecasting – the report on the oil exploration decision outlines a vast range of possibilities of the cost (from a few hundred million to more than $50 billion), Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters dismissed it as a “very, very bad piece of analytical work”.

It is fair to say that the official advice offers no accurate guide as to what the fiscal cost of the decision would be.

Given that we do not know the future for carbon prices, oil prices or interest rates, there is no way we could possibly know what that cost would be, a fact which seems lost on Peters.

What we do know is that there will be a cost, and it will likely be significant.

We also know that the way it was handled has had a significant impact on investor confidence in New Zealand, which seems to have dawned on the Government only months later.

It is also likely to have an impact on energy prices, both from the cost of gas to households and its impact on future electricity prices.

Woods said on Monday that, even with the benefit of hindsight and advice, she would still push for exactly the same decision.

Of course, she would say that. But it seems the Government has decided to breathe a little more life into oil exploration, just in case.

Green Party: Minister must not water down oil and gas decision

Green Party: Minister Woods must not water down decision to ban offshore oil and gas exploration

The Green Party does not support Labour Party Minister Woods allowing mining companies with existing offshore oil and gas exploration permits more time to consider if they will drill.

“Mining companies with existing licenses for drilling have a time limit on when they can explore. If they reach the time limit, their permits are handed back to the Crown”, Green Party energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes said today.

They shouldn’t be offered special treatment to extend or waive that time limit.

“I struggle to see the point in banning offshore exploration for oil and gas if existing companies with huge blocks can hold off from exploring until way later down the track.

“New Zealand took an incredibly exciting and brave step for people and planet when we decided to ban future offshore oil and gas exploration.

“It has been congratulated world-wide and New Zealanders are proud of the decision, let’s not water it down.

“I am urging her to reconsider this proposal”.

Remember Gareth Hughes? I’m not sure how much clout he has. He is till an MP but is far from prominent.

 

Increase in oil and gas exploration

While the Government has said they won’t issue any more oil or gas exploration permits and existing permits can still be used. With oil prices increasing there could be an increase in exploration in the short term.

Stuff: Rise in oil and gas exploration activity in Taranaki by early 2019

A flurry of oil and gas exploration is set to be unleashed in Taranaki during the next 18 to 36 months as companies make decisions on whether to ‘drill or drop’ existing permits.

The schedule will see as many as 20 wells being drilled both onshore and offshore in the region before early 2019 as the price of oil steadily rises, to US$80 from below US$40 two years ago.

A Petroleum Exploration and Production Association New Zealand (PEPANZ) spokesman said a decision would be made on a total of 31 exploration permits to be completed in Taranaki, as well as off the east coast of both the North and South Islands over the next three years.

Todd Energy is well underway with preparations to begin drilling and hydraulic fracturing six new wells at the Mangahewa G site, north Taranaki, in late 2018. Contractors are finishing off laying the 4.5 kilometre gas pipeline from the site to the Mangahewa production station in preparation for the wells being drilled and fractured.

The drilling and fracturing phase of the programme could see employment for up to 150 people.

OMV, which recently acquired Shell New Zealand assets, is planning to drill nine offshore exploration wells during the 2019/2020 summer across six permits in the Taranaki Basin.

The permits, granted to the company under the Crown Minerals Act, have a number of time-dependent exploration commitments and if successful further appraisal drilling, the step before production, would be considered, the PEPANZ spokesman said.

It takes a lot of time and money to get from permit to production, but the existing permits may become more valuable if no more are issued.

No cost analysis, no consultation, no idea on oil and gas ban

Minister of Energy Megan Woods has said she isn’t aware of any cost-benefit analysis before the decision to ban future oil and gas exploration permits, no formal consultation was undertaken with the Petroloeum Exploration Association, and the impact on the price of gas was not considered.

And alarmingly, no estimates were made on whether global greenhouse gas emissions will fall as a result of the decision.

Newshub: Government did no cost-benefit analysis on oil and gas ban

The decision to ban future oil and gas exploration was made without a cost benefit analysis to back it up, Newshub can reveal.

It’s one of a number of admissions revealed in parliamentary written questions pointing to a lack of evidence behind the decision.

“I am not aware of a cost-benefit analysis using the Treasury’s CBAx tool being undertaken in relation to the decision to grant no further offshore oil and gas exploration permits,” Megan Woods said.

Dr Woods’ office told Newshub officials did not think it was appropriate to use the Treasury tool in this case as there were too many unknowns about how much gas and oil was actually out there.

“Searching for petroleum offshore is a low probability of success event but high impact if found, so trying to model the costs and benefits in a traditional option analysis spreadsheet would have required substantial assumptions to be made,” a spokesperson for the minister said.

So they just decided to do it regardless of possible costs and effects.

The Energy Minister has also admitted no formal consultation with the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New Zealand (PEPANZ) took place.

“No formal consultation was undertaken with PEPANZ in relation to the decision to grant no further offshore oil and gas exploration permits. However, I have spoken publicly about the Government’s direction to transition away from fossil fuels and my office has had open dialogue with PEPANZ before this announcement.”

Woods has just been to meet producers in New Plymouth this week.

“No specific estimate has been provided to me on the price impact on gas of the decision to grant no further offshore oil and gas exploration permits. Officials have advised that gas prices have risen in the past when the supply of gas has been constrained,” Dr Woods said.

No concerns about adverse effects of the decision.

There’s also been no estimates on whether global greenhouse gas emissions will fall as a result of the decision.

“No specific estimate has been provided to me. I have been advised by officials that the effect on global emissions depends on the response of New Zealand’s large gas users.”

And it seems that there was little or no interest in whether the ban would be effective or not.

It looks like this is a rushed ideological decision rather than evidence based.

And it looks negligent.

‘Feedback welcome’ after ‘consultation announcement’ on oil and gas

There was immediate and strong criticism of the announcement that the Government would stop issuing offshore oil and gas exploration permits, and also onshore permits outside of Taranaki.

Labour were seemingly in damage control Jacinda Ardern as sent Andrew Little to New Plymouth for an emergency public meeting. That didn’t go smoothly.

Jones: “The transition is either going to be driven upon us internationally or we’re going to try and get ahead of the curve and that’s what the prime minister’s said and Shane Jones is agreeing.”

Labour don’t look like they though through how the announcement might be received, how to deal with ‘the transition’, and what they should do about dealing with the flak.

At the meeting in New Plymouth Little made some odd comments.  He said it had been ‘a consultation announcement’, and the Government was keen to hear feedback on what was needed in the transition.

Consultation  after the decision had been announced.

Stuff: Little faces Taranaki public over oil and gas decision

Andrew Little says the Government still wants to hear feedback from those affected by the decision to end oil and gas exploration.

On Thursday night Labour MP Little held a public meeting at the Quality Hotel to discuss the impact of the decision with the community and industry in Taranaki.

“This region is already suffering in the oil and gas industry because of the downturn…Leaders have been asking what’s next for Taranaki”.

“This took people by surprise and I get that, but this is not about turning off the spigots tomorrow and shoving people out of work.”

He said this was a consultation announcement, and the Government was keen to hear feedback on what was needed in the transition.

“It is not a waste of your time…to come back and and say this is how it will affect us.

A ‘consultation announcement’ that ‘took people by surprise’.

Getting sent to a meeting in Taranaki seems to have taken Little by surprise, he didn’t seem well prepared. And he didn’t get a good response.

Arun Chaudhari of the Taranaki Chamber of Commerce told Little most businesses had a consensus of opinion.

“This region wants to see climate change addressed; we just think it’s a premature decision without proper consultation,” he said.

Director of Arete Consulting Len Houwers said the news was a concern for major employers Methanex and Ballance.

“This announcement gives them no confidence that there’s a future for them here. I still see a disconnect between what what the Government is trying to achieve how it’s going about it.”

I don’t think the feedback Labour got yesterday will have been welcomed by their PR manangers.

Ardern has famously said “climate change is my generation’s nuclear free moment”.  This announcement has been poorly managed and seems to have blown up in her face.

If Labour keep cocking things up like this they risk the voters going ballistic.

 

Oil and gas announcement a bad look for NZ First

The Greens and associated organisations were ecstatic after the announcement was made yesterday that no more offshore oil and gas exploration permits would be issued, and there would be no more onshore permits outside Taranaki (but existing permits would remain). It was seen as a big win for James Shaw and the Greens.

In contrast NZ First’s Shane Jones publicly squirmed, and Labour rushed to try to pacify criticism, especially in Taranaki.

Photos from the announcement were telling:

The power of a photograph. Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones holds his face in his hand.

Kevin Stent/Stuff

Stuff: Photo says it all: How Shane Jones reacted to Government’s oil news

“At the press conference it became pretty obvious there were two contrasting dynamics going on. A disgruntled Jones and a gleeful (Climate Change Minister James) Shaw,” Stent said.

Ardern and Minister of Energy Megan Woods don’t look over the moon either.

Stuff: Shane Jones says ending oil and gas exploration is the ‘only scenario’

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says the Government’s ending of oil and gas exploration is the “only scenario” and NZ First voters will have to accept that.

Jones fronted media alongside Ardern, Climate Change Minister and Green Party co-leader James Shaw and Energy Minister Megan Woods where he painted a picture of NZ First leader Winston Peters going to lengths to strike a deal with Ardern to keep any existing entitlements intact.

Speaking to media after the announcement Jones was frank about being a “pro-industry man” and being unable to “walk back from that status”.

“But I am one person and I am loyal to the agreements that are struck by my leader and the Prime Minister and it’s futile to talk about alternative scenarios.”

As both a NZ First MP and a self-professed “champion of the regions” Jones said “this is a genuine MMP Government, this is what the majority of New Zealanders voted for and we’re putting it into practice”

The announcement puts Jones and NZ First in a difficult position.

It may not have helped that coincidentally petrol pump prices rose yesterday due to rising international oil prices.

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.

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.