The Watchdog

Keeping citizens in the loop

UPDATE: Anti-Petrobas protest! Views of Maori, Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ, Maori Party, Labour, NZ First, Green Party, National, Police

Protest in the Raukumara

Drama on the high seas continues with news that the government has now dispatched the Navy, the Air Force and the Police in response to the protest action occurring in the Raukumara Basin.
It should concern us all that the government is willing to invoke the coercive powers of the state in response to a minor and non-violent protest. Such powers should only be invoked in exceptional circumstances. The protests occurring off the East Cape are not exceptional by any definition. The protestors have engaged the Petrobras ship on a number of occasions, however disruption only occurred on one occasion when a lone swimmer, yes a lone swimmer, disrupted the survey line.
Do you think this warrants direct government intervention?
The protestors do not pose a threat to the New Zealand people nor the integrity of the state.
The rule of law is, as far as I can tell, not under threat. Having said that, arguably, the government is threatening the rule of law through the exercise of what appears to be arbitrary power.
Another salient point is also made over at Pundit: that it is not the place of the executive government, read Cabinet, to dictate to the Police what, where and when they should investigate perceived offences. That is constitutionally repugnant and very dangerous in practise. The basic notion is that the law makers should have no role in law enforcement.
The government, in seeking to prevent continued protest, not through legislation but through law enforcement, seriously oversteps the mark.
Ultimately, it is beyond reason that the government is invoking the full power of the state in response to a non-violent protest occurring extraterritorially. Proponents of liberty and freedom should be concerned.
What I also find interesting is that Petrobras has not lodged an official complaint with the police nor has the company requested government help. Intervention in the Raukumara Basin is a government initiative. Clearly the government feels the protestors pose a threat to government rule. Any protest action which undermines a lawful government enactment is a challenge to that government’s integrity and legitimacy. Given the authoritarian nature of the current government it should come as no surprise that they have, when threatened, responded with a show of force.
Without doubt the surveillance capabilities of the state have been activated. If the protests continue in to the medium term we can probably expect to see a repeat of the Urewera raids. Te Whanau a Apanui will not back down and the rhetoric will only harden. Of course Te Whanau a Apanui and Greenpeace will never turn to militancy, but the Police and SIS will construe some narrative indicating planned militant action.
What really gets me about this issue is that the government is putting the rights of foreign oil interests ahead of the rights of tangata whenua. This is not unexpected, but it was at least reasonable to expect a more equitable balance between the interests of tangata whenua and the interests of foreign corporates. Sadly, tanagata whenua have been disregarded – which is true to form really.
Greenpeace and Te Whanau a Apanui cannot allow the government to dictate the terms of this debate.
Opposition cannot succeed without widespread popular and political support. I am unsure where the public stands on the issue at the moment, but Phil Goff, and by extension Labour, Winston Peters, the Greens and the Maori Party have indicated support for the protestors (yes, the Maori Party – mean).
Now the protestors need plurality public support. Petrobras has deep pockets and long hands, they will throw everything they have at this. It will be a hard fight… but tino rangatiratanga never comes easy.

Posted by Morgan Godfery at 4:25 PM

Protest against oil exploration to be expected

Monday, 11 April 2011, 4:12 pm
Press Release: Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ Wellington – Monday 11 April 2011

Protest against oil exploration to be expected

Protests are to be expected and are legitimate when there has been no opportunity to have any on the Petrobras mineral licence prior to it being granted, the Environment and Conservation Organisations said today.
ECO was responding to the acting Minister of Energy’s criticism of the Greenpeace and Te Whānau ā Apanui protest against Petrobras oil prospecting off the East Cape.

ECO spokesperson, Cath Wallace said the public was not given any opportunity to comment on whether the proposed licence should be granted or on the specific condition.

“When the Government closes people out of decision making then public protest is the only option available to people.”

Cath Wallace said the Government is steamrollering over environmental and cultural concerns.
“There is no public process and no public environmental or cultural assessment procedures in place and no consideration of the impact on climate change of any oil extraction.”
Cath Wallace said New Zealand needs processes to consider environmental and social impacts of activities in the EEZ (12 to 200 nautical miles offshore) and currently we have none despite many promises by successive governments.

“ECO stresses that the public must have a say about any new rules before these are made into law.”

Cath Wallace said the Government was accommodating overseas oil interests while ignoring New Zealanders views.
For further information, contact Cath Wallace on 021-891-994 or Barry Weeber 021-738-807.

1. ECO – the Environment and Conservation Organisations was established in 1972 and represents 67 groups with a concern for the environment.

2. The Resource Management Act controls environmental aspects of oil and gas mining out to 12 nautical miles offshore, the edge of the territorial sea. The Maritime Transport Act covers some aspects of safety and environmental provisions for oil and gas activity on the Exclusive Economic Zone (from 12 to 200 nautical miles offshore) and the continental shelf but this did not include key environmental controls which led to the adoption of some unenforceable voluntary codes.

3. Voluntary guidelines which have no legislative force include:
• Environmental Best Practice Guidelines for the Offshore Petroleum Industry (see

• Department of Conservation guidelines to minimise disturbance on marine mammals of mineral seismic surveys. These guidelines are currently under review.

4. There are no environmental regulations under the Continental Shelf Act or the Crown Minerals Act. When compared to Australia, Brazil, Canada, US, and the UK, NZ is the only country without a formal consent, referral, permit or environmental assessment process for offshore seismic operations.

5. The Guidelines for Minimising Acoustic Disturbance to Marine Mammals from Seismic Survey Operations’ is currently being reviewed. The review has shown that other countries considered – (Australia, Brazil, Canada, US, and the UK) have mandatory requirements.

6. The proposals to develop gap filling legislation were consulted on in 2007 and 2008. Information can be found on the Ministry for the Environment website
7. The Petrobras permit is in water up to 3000m deep which is much deeper than current operating fields and, as shown by the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, would be very challenging to deal with any spill.

Monday, April 11, 2011 • Chimene Tipoki

ACTIVISTS swam in front of a 3500-tonne survey ship yesterday, scuttling seismic testing off East Cape and provoking the anger of both the Government and the fuel industry.

The company surveying the seabed off East Cape has stopped its operations, after several swimmers carrying large buoys bearing flags with the message ‘‘Stop Deep Sea Oil’’ came dangerously close to the survey vessel M.V. Orient Explorer and made it unsafe to continue operations.

The oil and gas sector has dismissed the action as “economic sabotage”, while Acting Minister for Energy and Resources Hekia Parata says “the protesters will sail off leaving the local people no better off socially or economically”.

She has urged protesters to take a calm and reasoned approach that respects the rights of Brazilian fuel giant Petrobras, who have bought the rights to prospect in a 12,000km area of the Raukumara Basin.

Prime Minister John Key upheld Ms Parata’s comments when speaking to media this morning.

Petrobras had legal rights and should be able to complete their exploratory work, he said.

Mr Key said the Government needed to balance any risks to the environment with the economic gains.

“No one is arguing that there are not environmental issues to consider. Everyone is aware of what happened in the Gulf of Mexico, but at the end this is very early days and we want New Zealanders to have better jobs and better incomes — and there’s a real opportunity here,” he said.

Five flotilla boats — Infinity, San Pietro, Secret Affair, Siome and Windbourne — have been in the Raukumara Basin since the Panamanian-flagged vessel started surveying there a week ago.

Te Whanau a Apanui leader Rikirangi Gage says the iwi’s fishing vessel San Pietro will continue to take part in the disruption of testing.

“This is an act of defence of our ancestral lands and waters that have sustained us for generations. Te Whanau a Apanui wants Petrobras to leave these waters and not return.”

Ms Parata says democracy protects the right to protest but not to the extent of interfering with others’ rights.

Maritime New Zealand will monitor the situation by listening to radio communications and the police are watching the situation closely.

Petroleum Exploration and Production Association Executive Officer John Pfahlert is calling on the Government to intervene.

He says the Government should use either the police or navy to ensure Greenpeace activists don’t further disrupt the vessel.

“If the company is unable to continue its survey because of these protest actions, this will send a signal to potential overseas investors that New Zealand is a risky place to do business,” he says.

• The protest came on the day Ngati Porou coastal hapu gathered at Hinerupe Marae in Te Araroa where they voted to continue their opposition to prospecting.

Wharekahika’s (Hicks Bay) Te Ahi Ka Action Group held an information sharing hui at Hinerupe Marae in Te Araroa on Sunday.

The group arranged speakers to talk about seismic testing, deep sea mining and the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing.

The meeting also focused on planning action for the International Day of Action Against Extraction on April 20.

Peters backs protest against oil exploration

Updated at 8:45pm on 29 March 2011

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is backing Te Whanau a Apanui’s protest against oil exploration off the eastern Bay of Plenty coast.

A flotilla of boats, including one from Te Whanau a Apanui, is on its way to Cape Runaway to take a stand against the Brazilian oil giant Petrobras’s plans.

Mr Peters told Waatea News New Zealanders have no confidence the Government has properly weighed the environmental and social risks.

“The key issue,” he says, “is: have we been asked or consulted on this issue. And the answer is no. They just went ahead just like Gerry Brownlee tried to on the national parks.”

Mr Peters says the royalty rates are so small that New Zealanders stand to make very little if Petrobras does discover oil.
Copyright © 2011, Radio New Zealand—Goff/tabid/419/articleID/206571/Default.aspx

Guarantees needed for oil exploration – Goff

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Phil Goff 

Phil Goff

Tue, 12 Apr 2011 10:32a.m.

New Zealanders need a guarantee that oil companies will foot the bill if deep sea drilling off the East Cape goes wrong, Labour leader Phil Goff says.

The call follows protests at the weekend in which swimmers from a Greenpeace protest flotilla forced a ship searching for oil in the Raukumara Basin to divert.

The Orient Explorer, owned by Brazilian state-owned oil company Petrobras, is operating under a five-year licence granted by the Government to carry out seismic testing.

It had just started a 60-day seismic programme, and Prime Minister John Key said yesterday the company should be allowed to carry out its work.

“No one is arguing that people don’t have a right to protest but when it actually stops the company carrying out what it has been legally granted the ability to do, then that concerns me.”

Mr Key said using navy patrols to protect the ship was an option, and Police National Headquarters said it was looking at its legal options on interceding.

“If it (the protest) was happening on dry land, then the police would be in a position to do something about it,” he said.

“The question is whether the police are in a position to do something about it when it is in the EEZ, and Crown Law is clarifying that.”

However, Mr Goff said there had to be better consultation with local people regarding oil and mineral exploration.

“We’re not against oil and gas exploration, that brings in big royalties to New Zealand and it helps our balance of payments but we do need strong guarantees following the Gulf of Mexico, to ensure that safety and environmental considerations are fully taken into account,” he said.

“All of the assurances that we get that everything’s safe, everything’s okay, the public’s far less ready to accept those at face value.

“We need water tight guarantees that this is safe, and that if something goes wrong the full bill will be picked up by Petrobras, not the New Zealand taxpayer.”



Navy intervention in oil protest “disgusting” – Maori MPs

Maori MPs have condemned naval help with police intervention against Petrobras protestors off the East Cape, calling it “bloody disgusting” and similar to Libyan tactics.

The Orient Explorer, owned by Brazilian state-owned oil company Petrobras, is carrying out Government-sanctioned seismic testing in the Raukumara Basin and at the weekend was the target of protest — swimmers from a Greenpeace protest flotilla forced the ship off course.

Police this afternoon visited the protest fleet in navy rigid-hull inflatable boats and served notices under the Maritime Transport Act that they should stay at least 200m away from the ship or face a fine of up to $10,000 or 12 months in prison.

The Maori Party condemned the presence of the navy and reiterated its disappointed that two East Coast iwi, Te Whanau A Apanui and Ngati Porou, were left out of the Petrobras permit consultation process in June last year.

But Acting Minister of Energy and Resources Hekia Parata said “that was simply untrue” as iwi were invited to contribute to the process.

Independent MP Hone Harawira said it was “bloody disgusting” police were now mobilising the Royal New Zealand Navy.

He compared the action to Bastion Point and Parihaka — two historic movements in Maori activism.

“What’s happening there is exactly the same, it’s the Crown moving against Maori for daring to defend their rights.

“This is a major historical event.”

Maori Party MP for Waiariki, Te Ururoa Flavell, said sending the navy was similar to Libya using the military against its own people.

“It is totally over the for the Government to be using Navy resources in this way.”

He said the Government must put the permit on hold until consultation with iwi has taken place.

Petrobras held one meeting last weekend, but he said it was not enough.

Police earlier defended the use of the naval inshore patrol vessel HMNZS Pukaki to monitor the protests, saying their own boats could not operate so far out. The priority was to ensure the protests were conducted safely without interrupting Petrobras’ right to conduct testing.

Petrobras asset manager Marco Toledo told reporters in Wellington today the company had met East Cape iwi Te Whanau a Apanui and would continue to engage with it.

“They haven’t given us the permission to drill, but they give us the opportunity to be friends,” Mr Toledo said.

He denied claims the company was ignoring Maori.

The Orient Explorer had collected some data but was now in “standby” and would resume testing when it was safe to do so.

The research phase would take three and a half years and the protest would not disrupt the long-term plan.

Prime Minister John Key said he had not taken advice on whether it was illegal to sabotage New Zealand’s economic interests.

“What I can say is, quite clearly, we are a Government that believes there are opportunities in the oil and gas exploration field.”

Labour leader Phil Goff said there needed to be better consultation with local people, and the Government needed to give more reassurance about oil and gas exploration.


Don’t drill it if you can’t plug it

Monday, 11 April 2011, 1:01 pm
Press Release: Green PartyDon’t drill it if you can’t plug it

John Key’s Government should not allow exploration for deep sea oil in New Zealand waters before the industry proves it can plug oil leaks in deep water, said the Green Party today.

“John Key stated this morning that he believes the Government can manage the environmental risks of deep sea oil drilling. The Prime Minister should share with us the basis of that belief,” said Green Party spokesperson for deep water oil drilling David Clendon.

“What clever technology or response plan does John Key know about that no-one else has heard of?”

Brazilian energy company Petrobras began exploring last week for oil and gas in a 12,000 square kilometre area in the Raukumara Basin off East Cape.

“A deep water oil leak would be an environmental catastrophe. The nearest rig that could help fix it would be months away,” said Mr Clendon.

“It is environmentally reckless to start a deep water oil drilling program in one of the most important ecological regions on the planet when the oil companies don’t know how to plug deep water oil wells if anything goes wrong.

“The Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico shows that the industry has not solved the environmental and safety issues involved. Yet we are allowing prospect drilling in an even more remote, geologically unstable area with deeper water off the East Coast.

“Without a safety plan, oil drilling off our shores poses an unacceptable environmental, social and economic risk,” said Mr Clendon.


Greenpeace Action against Petrobras “Economic Sabotage”

Monday, 11 April 2011, 10:19 am
Press Release: PEPANZ
11 April 2011-04-10
Media Statement

Greenpeace Action against Petrobras “Economic Sabotage”

The Petroleum Exploration and Production Association said today that the protest actions of Greenpeace, which resulted in Petrobras suspending their seismic survey in the Raukumara Basin amounted to little more than economic sabotage.

Executive Officer John Pfahlert said that Petrobras were legitimately exercising their right to explore for oil and gas, a right granted them by the New Zealand Government.

“While Greenpeace have the right to express their view they don’t have the right to prevent others from exercising their rights.

“The New Zealand Government has decided through the New Zealand Energy Strategy that petroleum development is in the national economic interest. The Government has invested a considerable amount of money promoting New Zealand as an exploration destination to overseas explorers. For Greenpeace to try and prevent the development of oil and gas in this manner is economic sabotage” said Mr Pfahlert.

The industry is calling on the Government to intervene to ensure the survey could continue as planned. Mr pfahlert said the Government should use either the Police or Navy to ensure that Greenpeace activists don’t further disrupt the vessel.

“If the company is unable to continue its survey because of these protest actions, this will send a signal to potential overseas investors that New Zealand is a risky place to do business.

While that will no doubt be welcomed by the protestors, New Zealand will be the poorer as a result.” said Mr Pfahlert.

PM’s Presser Audio 11/4/11: Petrobrassed Off

Monday, 11 April 2011, 5:43 pm
Article: Scoop Audio

Scoop Audio: PM’s Post-Cabinet Press Conference 11/4/11

John Key
Click for big version
The PM’s press conference this afternoon focussed on the Government’s response to Greenpeace protests which have hampered oil exploration off the East Cape. The Goverment has referred the matter to the police and is taking legal advice on whether anything can be done to allow oil company Petrobras to exercise the “legal right” they have been granted to conduct survey work. Mr Key accepted people had a right to protest and that various issues made the matter “more complicated than it seems”.

Mr Key said forthcoming legislation would address environmental concerns before any drilling takes place.


April 12, 2011 - Posted by | Fighting corruption in NZ, Internationally significant information

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