The protests and the drilling go on

A flotilla is setting off to meet the gas exploration vessel due to arrive off the Otago coast.

‘David and Goliath’ quest

David killed Goliath, and the Oil Free Otago flotilla set to sail tonight can stop the Anadarko drill ship, the Rev Peter Matheson says.

Mr Matheson said he would be aboard the lead flotilla yacht SV Tiama when it left Dunedin tonight to confront the Anadarko drill ship Noble Bob Douglas at the drill site 65km from Taiaroa Head.

Although confronting the drill ship of an oil giant on a small yacht was as ridiculous as David fighting Goliath, the outcome could be similar, Mr Matheson said.

”Anyone remember who won?”A similar fight was won by anti-nuclear protesters in the 1980s, he said.

A slingshot from 500 metres might be a bit ambitious.

Also set to board SV Tiama is Bob Lloyd, associate professor and director of energy studies at the University of Otago physics department. Prof Lloyd said he would ask the drill ship crew, via radio on the protest yacht, to halt its New Zealand drilling operations.

He would ask they stop their search and focus on discovering renewable energy, such as solar panels and wind turbines.

I thought solar panels and wind turbines had already been discovered. What doesn’t seem to have been discovered yet is how to make solar and wind energy cost effective enough to supercede fossil fuel, along with all the electric powered transport and infrastructure.

As off Taranaki the anti-exploration protest will get some attention but the drilling will go on. And our oil and gas needs will go on.

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.

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.”

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.