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Maui mistakes a lesson for oil discovery

22 March 2000

An oil discovery in Taranaki, with the potential to be the largest find in New Zealand, could lead to rocketing consumption of oil if managed wrongly, Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons warned today.

Ms Fitzsimons said the discovery, initially estimated at up to 500 million barrels, by American independent Swift Energy could help reduce New Zealand's serious balance of payments deficit if developed wisely and slowly.

"If this oil can replace imports while we make the transition to sustainable energy sources, it will increase the stability of the New Zealand economy."

However the commercial imperative would be to develop the field as fast as possible to get the maximum return on investment.

"My greatest fear is that a rapid depletion rate and cheaper prices will accelerate the growth in oil dependency, leaving us even more vulnerable when the field runs dry and world oil prices have risen. In the process, it would tend to stifle energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources and alternatives to cars," said Ms Fitzsimons.

"The Maui gas disaster, whereby one of the largest gas fields in the world will be sucked dry in just 30 years, provides a blueprint of how not to develop an energy resource," said Ms Fitzsimons. "The Take-or-Pay agreement signed in 1973 doomed us to energy waste and the rapid depletion of our oil and gas resources for the next 30 years. We must not repeat that mistake."

Ms Fitzsimons said New Zealand already had the fastest growth of greenhouse gas emissions in the OECD, most of which stemmed from a growth in transport emissions.

"If all the hype around this discovery creates the perception that oil is abundant, it could damage our efforts to build a sustainable energy system and spell the end to any hope of New Zealand meeting the commitments made under the Kyoto Protocol."

Jeanette Fitzsimons MP: 470 6661 or 025 586 068 Gina Dempster, Press secretary: 470 6723 or 021 1265 289


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