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Huge oil and gas “garage sale” comes at real cost to nature

2 April 2014 – Wellington

Forest & Bird media release for immediate use

Huge oil and gas “garage sale” comes at real cost to nature

Conservation organisation Forest & Bird says the sell-off of deep-sea drilling rights in some of New Zealand’s deepest waters and onshore oil and gas drilling and fracking rights in some of New Zealand’s most valuable areas of native forest could come at a huge cost to New Zealand’s natural heritage.

Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges announced the new block offers to an audience of executives from the fossil fuels sector in Wellington this morning.

The block offers cover more than 925,200 hectares of land, and more than 39 million hectares of ocean.

‘Whether it be from the risk of spills, the lasting legacy of contaminated sites, or from climate change, Simon Bridges’ garage sale of the rights to our pristine oceans and treasured forest areas could leave a lasting impact on our natural heritage,” says Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell.

The onshore block offers include vast tracts of lowland public conservation land on the West Coast of the South Island, a swathe of the Ruahine Forest Park, and lowland forest remnants in eastern Taranaki.

“The sell-off of deep-sea rights underlines the sad fact that more than 99 per cent of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone is open for exploitation by the fossil fuels industry, and only a tiny fraction of our EEZ is fully protected from this sort of activity with full marine reserve status.

“As modelling done by the oil industry itself has shown, a deep water oil blowout could foul vast tracts of ocean and coastline. This would significantly impact on seabirds, marine mammals, fish and other marine life.

“Today’s announcement has the feel of something that might have come out of the Wild West, rather than from a government looking after future generations of New Zealanders or this country’s natural heritage,” Kevin Hackwell says.

Oil companies are able to nominate areas they want to be put up for sale by filling out an online form on the New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals website. The “organisation” field is not compulsory. *

“This exercise is doubly reckless because, as we know, only a fraction of the world’s proven areas of oil and coal reserves can be burnt if global warming is to be kept at a two degree average increase. As this week’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes plain, the last thing we need is more fossil fuel development,” says Kevin Hackwell.

“The government is pumping tens of millions of dollars into seismic surveys and the like to make New Zealand a more attractive destination for the fossil fuels industry. But instead of giving these old industries handouts, the government should be using this money to create a sustainable economy that fits with our clean green image.

“Over the summer New Zealanders showed their strong desire to protect our environment and to shift to clean energy. The government should recognise this and properly protect our oceans and remaining conservation areas, rather than making them available to the oil and gas industry,” Kevin Hackwell says.

*https://www.nzpam.govt.nz/cms/petroleum/block-offers/block-offer-2015-nominations

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