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Protesters celebrate Petrobras withdrawal from East Cape

Published: 11:37AM Tuesday December 04, 2012 Source: ONE News / Newstalk ZB

Local environmentalists and iwi are claiming victory, after Brazilian oil giant Petrobras pulled out of operations off the east coast of the North Island.

ONE News has seen a statement showing the company doesn't think the oil and gas reserves were "sufficient enough" to justify further exploration.

Despite this the Government is adamant there will be other companies wanting to take over.

Petrobras' search has raised the ire of environmentalist groups and local iwi, but after two years, they have decided to scrap further exploration in the Raukumara Basin.

"It's always tough to get investors to come to New Zealand and it's disappointing when one leaves," says David Robinson of the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association.

The statement from Petrobras says: "Although analysis showed some signs of oil and gas reserves, they weren't sufficient to justify further exploration."

The state-run energy company says the decision is also based on its business plan. In August, it reported its first quarterly loss in 13 years, blaming volatile currency markets and debt.

"I understand the primary reason is they're consolidating their activities back in Brazil and they've got a number of different issues to deal with," says Prime Minister John Key.

"So it's possible it's a combination and they're not sure it's prospective enough relative to the risk they'd need to take."

Controversial plans

Energy development is a key part of the Government's strategy for economic growth. Treasury estimated Petrobras' work off the East Cape was worth up to NZ$300 million dollars, but the decision to grant licenses was controversial.

Two years ago, the Government was forced to apologise to local iwi for failing to consult with them.

Green MP Gareth Hughes tweeted that it was "good news for our environment".

"It does show that New Zealand's economic prosperity does not lie with relaying on international oil companies," Simon Boxes of Greenpeace said.

"It's a risky business - it's going to damage our international clean, green reputation."

A Petrobras spokesman was quoted by the Gisborne Herald as denying the decision was due to protest action.

Energy and resources minister Phil Heatley is still up-beat about the site's prospects.

"They've got some interesting 2D seismic surveys, which of course fall into our lap now," says Heatley. "So we're now able to offer that information to other companies and perhaps that will be of interest to them."