Government opens 50,000 sq km despite opposition from council, iwi and hapu.
DESPITE opposition from Gisborne District Council and East Coast iwi and hapu, the Government has opened up an area of nearly 50,000 square kilometres off the East Coast for oil and gas exploration tenders.
The initial “block offer” for the Pegasus-East Coast offshore area was 75,180 sq km but was reduced to 49,630 sq km following consultation.
It includes an area offshore of Gisborne from just south of Napier to out from Ruatoria.
After consultation, the Government decided to exclude blocks within six miles of the Gisborne shore, split the Hawke’s Bay section into a new area and exclude blocks along the eastern, western and southern fringes due to the commercial environment.
“The reduction was based on an assessment of matters raised by iwi and hapu, and balanced against current market conditions and the potential value of the resource,” New Zealand Petroleum and Mineral national manager petroleum Josh Adams said.
“General themes from matters raised by iwi and hapu include the need to manage the impact of activities on sites of local, cultural and historical significance.”
In response to the wider opposition, such as from Gisborne District Council which last year voted to reaffirm its opposition to offshore oil and gas exploration in the region, Mr Adams said the Government takes a “mixed and balanced approach to energy supply in New Zealand”.
“Petroleum development needs to be balanced with the shift to renewable sources of energy. Oil and gas will be needed for many decades to come. The International Energy Agency expects oil and natural gas will account for almost half of the world’s energy needs until at least 2040.”
Oil and gas could also provide significant economic benefits to the region, he said.
Energy and Resources Minister Judith Collins said the low number of permits granted in last year’s block offer reflected a significant downturn in the sector.
“However, activity in New Zealand and globally is expected to pick up as operator margins improve.”
The total New Zealand area included in the tender is 481,735 sq km, less than the 525,515 sq km offered last year.
This year’s area comprises 5102 sq km onshore and 476,632 sq km offshore.
The Government has come under fire from the Green Party for including an area of Lake Te Anau, close to Fiordland National Park, and 35 percent of the North Island Maui’s dolphin sanctuary.
“National’s priorities are all backwards,” said Green Party energy and resources spokesman Gareth Hughes.
“We should be backing local companies to become world leaders in clean energy technology, not bending over backwards to try and attract overseas oil companies to New Zealand.”