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Activists oppose Tui oil field expansion with toasts and song

Thursday 8th November 2018

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Protesters opposing plans to extend the life of the Tui oil field raised a toast to the government’s ban on new offshore exploration and what they says is Tamarind Resources’ “really bad” investment in a soon-to-be stranded asset.

Veteran protesters Urs Signer and Emily Bailey ended their submission to a board in inquiry in New Plymouth today by passing around drinks and singing to REM’s ‘It’s the end of the world as we know it.”

Bailey toasted the government legislating to halt the granting of new offshore exploration, the departure of TAG Oil – which is selling its onshore activities to Tui operator Tamarind - and “the millions of refugees around the world who have been pushed from their homes and suffered because of these companies who fight over resources that are not theirs to take.”

Earlier, an at times emotional Signer urged the board of inquiry to “find the loopholes” in the legislation they are working to in order to stop oil and gas companies “plundering resources, destroying communities and destroying the ocean.”

“These guys are keeping us addicted to their toxic stuff,” he said of the oil and gas sector.

“I’m sick and tired of this,” he said, reciting the string of offshore oil and gas and seabed mining projects he has submitted against. “We’ve been here before - we’ve done this 100 times.”

The board of inquiry is considering a request from Tamarind to extend the life of the Tui field by about six years by drilling a series of side-track wells next year to access oil still available within the 11-year old field.

The board has heard that the work, which is from the existing wells, would have only negligible to minor impacts on the seafloor environment, fish life, bird life and whales and other cetaceans.

Should the drilling be successful, the region could benefit by $110 million over six years, including 180 jobs and an extra $80 million of household incomes. The Crown could receive another $90 million in taxes and royalties.

But under the legislation governing the exclusive economic zone, the board of inquiry can’t consider climate change as an issue.

Signer disputed that, telling board chair David Hill that “your hands ain’t tied” and that the board was using the same tired rhetoric that had led generations of decision-makers to make mistake after mistake.

Coral ecologist Lyndon DeVantier, another of the handful of submitters who regularly appear for hearings on Taranaki oil and gas projects, said the climate situation is already “dire”. He urged the board to block the proposal by using its powers under the EEZ Act to consider cumulative effects of activities off the Taranaki coast.

“We have to stop. We cannot continue to burn fossil fuels,” he said.

Michelle Ducat, speaking for Oil Free Wellington by Skype, urged the board to “confront the contradiction” of the legislation and the “absurdity” of allowing on-going oil development when action on climate change is already over-due.

Hill said the contradiction she talked about was “very evident” to the board, but whether it could do anything about it was the moot point.

“We will see if we can address the issue and if we can then we will.”

The hearing concluded today. A decision is expected early next year.


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