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NZ will 'lose out' from oil drilling

Published: 9:46PM Monday July 11, 2011 Source: ONE Sport

Greenpeace's international head says New Zealand is at risk of environmental catastrophe if plans for deep sea oil drilling go ahead.

The Government wants more oil and gas exploration work carried out in New Zealand. Work is already under way in the Raukumara Basin on the East Cape.

Greenpeace's international executive director Kumi Naidoo, who was arrested last month for climbing aboard an oil rig west of Greenland, is now campaigning to put a stop to deep sea drilling here.

He is working with Eastern Bay of Plenty iwi Te Whanau-a-Apanui to try to put a stop to the Government's deep sea drilling campaign.

He says the potential damage for New Zealand could be in the order of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"This drilling [in New Zealand] is much deeper in parts than the Gulf of Mexico."

"It's not the people of New Zealand who will benefit from drilling if it's successful, it is oil companies and communities have to take 100% of the risk for 5% of the profit."

While the US was able to pass much of the clean-up bill for the Gulf of Mexico disaster to BP, Naidoo doubts New Zealand would have the same clout.

"Let's be blunt, New Zealand is not the United States. The United States was able to call BP and say '$20 billion on the table'. I'm not sure that New Zealand would have that same capability that the US had."

He also doubts New Zealand would have the resources to deal effectively with such a catastrophe.

"If you look at the Gulf of Mexico, there were 6000 ships that were needed to clean up that mess. In New Zealand, I think if you put all the ships together, you get about 6000 ships," he said.

"If you have a disaster, you damage your tourism, you damage your fishing industry and you damage the biodiversity of the area. The oil companies will not be able to pay the kind of clean up operations."

Naidoo, who was born in South Africa, describes deep sea drilling as "one of the defining environmental struggles of our time" and says a line needs to be drawn somewhere.

He said some of his inspiration for his struggle against drilling came from New Zealand.

"Thirty years ago, as a 16-year-old, I saw people in New Zealand standing up for people in my country, in South Africa, to say that apartheid was a bad thing and until apartheid was scrapped, we should not have rugby tours," he said.

New Zealand was this month ranked as the fifth best country for oil and gas exploration by petroleum companies, based on barriers to investment.