Submissions on climate change

One way lobbyists/activists try to claim they represent public opinion is by making mass submissions on issues. It’s then common to see them claim that the number of submissions is some sort of democratic measure.A Dunedin City Councillor did this recently.

It isn’t a democratic measure of public process, it’s a use of a democratic process, consultation.

The Ministry of the Environment has been consulting on climate change. Here is an example of activists trying to load up the submission numbers with guides and templates. Oil Free Otago’s aim is obvious.

Aotearoa must make a commitment to more than a 40% reduction of emissions, the time to act is now, and the government must STOP subsidising the fossil fuel industry!

And they detail their advice and encourage submissions. Fair enough, they are free to do this in our democratic process, but I would view their claims with caution and wouldn’t accept their claims without question.

Aotearoa has the responsibility to be a world leader. Make a submission to the MFE before 3 June 2015.


 If you can only say one thing, say this:

The most important thing is to protect New Zealand from dangerous temperature and sea level rises. At the very minimum, a 40% emissions reduction by 2030 is necessary to prevent serious effects to our way of life, our economy and our environment. While this target is to start in 2020, the time to act is now.


Make it personal:

As a parent, I’m concerned about how climate change will shape my children’s future.

I’m concerned about climate change because it affects our native wildlife. According to Forest and Bird, tuatara and albatross are already suffering the effects.

As a Christian, I believe we must stand in solidarity with the people who are on the frontlines of climate change, like our neighbours in the Pacific.

As a doctor, I’m concerned about the increasing health risks to New Zealanders.

Mention the following:

1.The Government’s consultation document treats action on climate change as a cost. Actually, it is failure to take action that will cost us. Climate change is a threat to our economy and the things it most depends on, like tourism and farming. Our agricultural nation depends on a stable climate.

2. Responding to climate change is worth our while. A cleaner greener future offers huge opportunities for our country, including better transport choices, safer streets for cycling and walking, good jobs in the rail and renewables industries and export opportunities for green technology.

3. The Government consultation materials suggest that New Zealand’s unique circumstances make reducing carbon pollution challenging. This ignores the enormous gains we can make by investing in better transport choices, including rail freight, cycling and public transport.

4. I request that you stop downplaying our responsibility for climate change saying New Zealand is too small to make a difference. It’s not in our national character to sit on the fence and watch others get the job done.

5. Some public meetings were announced with less than a week’s notice and very little publicity. I’m concerned that you’re not taking the views of New Zealanders seriously.

6. The government must cease subsidising the fossil fuel industry.

Ask a question:

-Why is the government funding, recruiting and subsidising the fossil fuel industry when we know climate change is an issue facing us now?

-Can other countries take our commitments seriously if meanwhile our government organisation, NZ Petroleum and Minerals is recruit fossil fuel companies to drill up our EEZ?

-Why has the Government provided so little notice for this consultation?

– How will submissions to the consultation be used to inform the Government’s target?

– Will the results of the consultation be made public?

– When will the Government announce the results of the consultation and New Zealand’s target?

– Has the Government done any analysis to assess the cost of not acting on climate change? Such as the impact of drought and floods on our farming sector?

– Has the Government done any analysis to assess the benefits of acting on climate change? Such as more jobs in the green tech sector or health benefits through reduced air pollution?

Helpful facts and stats:

– According to Ministry for the Environment projections, current policies are putting New Zealand on course for a 50% increase in greenhouse gas emissions. This is happening at a time when all the technology exists for us to reduce our pollution.

– According to the New Zealand Climate Change Centre, time in drought could triple in NZ by 2040, extreme rainfall and flooding could increase by 32%.

– According to the journal, Science, one in six species is at risk of extinction due to climate change. Risks are highest in New Zealand, Australia and South America.

Aotearoa has the responsibility to be a world leader. Make a submission to the MFE before 3 June 2015.

Read the ODT article: Climate Change Target Moral Not Economic Question

Check out this blog FossilFools for student and supporter, Siana’s take on the meeting.

FossilFools blog by Siana

When a mass of very similar submissions are received most will recognise them as an organised campaign to try and boost numbers for a particular point of view.

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.

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.