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Iwi leader launches criminal lawsuit against OMV CEO

Friday, October 25: An iwi leader has announced the initiation of a lawsuit to be filed at the International Criminal Court against Rainer Seele, the CEO of Austrian oil giant OMV.

Mike Smith (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu) is fronting the claim with the support of a number of indigenous leaders from around the world. He delivered the news to international press at a conference outside OMV’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria on Thursday local time.

Smith says Seele has personally contributed to driving the destruction of the land and livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples, including New Zealand Māori.

“By continuing the search for new oil and gas to burn in the face of the climate emergency, companies like OMV are condemning our grandchildren to a future of immense suffering,” he says.

“The leaders at OMV are well aware of climate science, which continues to deliver increasingly alarming predictions for the future of humanity if we keep burning fossil fuels. If decision makers like Rainer Seele choose not to act in the face of this crisis, they must be held criminally responsible.”

OMV is the last remaining international oil giant left in New Zealand following the Government’s ban on new oil and gas exploration permits. The company is one of just 100 that have caused more than 70% of the world’s climate emissions.

This summer, OMV plans to drill 12 wells off the coast of Taranaki, followed by a high-risk deep sea exploratory well off the Otago Coast.

Smith says OMV’s operations in New Zealand must be stopped.

“A find of oil or gas will fuel climate change and have devastating consequences for our people and biodiversity,” he says.

“Māori are particularly vulnerable to climate change, being disproportionately represented amongst the poor, who will be the hardest hit. Rising sea levels, coastal erosion, flooding and storm surges will irrevocably damage low lying coastal communities, and warming oceans and ocean acidification will damage traditional resources, including fisheries.

“The nightmare of the First and Second World Wars is nothing compared to the legacy we are leaving our children. The International Criminal Court was established to hold corporate and political leaders, who willfully perpetrate these types of atrocities, to account for their actions.

“Standing here in beautiful Vienna I cannot understand why OMV would seek to undermine the proud cultural achievements of its people. We all have a choice to make - either make the rapid changes required, or prepare for the inevitability of world war, famine, and ecological collapse.”

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