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Protests greet news of more oil and gas drilling areas

Published: 3:36PM Wednesday September 18, 2013 Source: ONE News

The Government has announced plans to allow oil and gas exploration in eight new areas, to protests, and complaints from the Greens.

Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges says five offshore exploration areas and three onshore areas, covering a total area of nearly 434,000 square kilometres are proposed.

Consultation now begins with iwi and local authorities in the areas being proposed before tenders are finalised for exploration next year.

About 120 protesters outside today's petroleum conference in Wellington called for a halt to oil and gas exploration on climate change grounds, Radio New Zealand reported.

The Green Party said the Government is not letting New Zealanders have a say on plans to allow exploratory deep sea oil drilling in a massive area of New Zealand waters.

Green Party energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes said consultation is limited to iwi and local authorities in the areas proposed for development.

Much of the offshore area is in deep sea, including significant areas with depths of 1500m or deeper, Mr Hughes said in a statement.

The Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was from an exploratory well in 1500m of water, he added.

"New Zealanders should get a say on proposals for risky deep sea drilling because the consequences of a spill will affect everyone," Mr Hughes said.

"The National Government seems determined to ram through unpopular proposals to sell off New Zealand assets and our natural environment without bothering with what the public thinks.

"New Zealanders know that deep sea drilling is not worth the risk. While there are some economic benefits they don't justify risking a catastrophic spill that could cost us billions."

'Safe and responsible'

The Minister said the annual block offer process for awarding oil and gas exploration permits presents a range of opportunities for investors and operators, "who bring with them vast experience in global exploration and production of oil and gas".

"But this is not about development at any cost," Mr Bridges added.

"The Government is committed to promoting and managing exploration interest in a safe and responsible way."

Three onshore exploration areas are proposed covering more than 15,000 square kilometres in total in the Taranaki, East Coast North Island and West Coast South Island regions.

Five offshore areas are proposed covering over 418,000 square kilometres in total in the Reinga-Northland Basin, New Caledonia Basin west of the North Island, Taranaki Basin, Pegasus-East Coast Basin and the Great South-Canterbury Basin.

Mr Bridges said while exploration will not necessarily be undertaken in all the blocks on offer, it is important to find out what is there and use the information to develop New Zealand's untapped resource wealth.