Extinction Rebellion Plans Flotilla in Otago, New Zealand To Protest Offshore Drilling Starting Feb 08

Source: Stuff / Hamish McNeilly

January 21: A flotilla is on a mission to highlight the impact of deep sea oil drilling off Otago’s coast.

The large drilling rig, COSL Prospector, is currently at the Tawhaki-1 drill site, 146 kilometres southeast of Balclutha, south Otago.

A planned flotilla is being organised by Extinction Rebellion and Oil Free Otago.

Spokeswoman Rosemary Penwarden said the rig was several days’ journey from Dunedin, with the voyage restricted to only experienced sailors and suitable vessels. “We will very carefully vet anyone who wants to go.”

However supporters were welcomed to give the flotilla a send-off when it leaves from Dunedin’s Carey’s Bay on February 8.

“Come and see how we do things in Dunedin. We have a proud history of standing up for things we believe in.”

Those involved in the flotilla would not be seeking to break the law, which including staying at least 500 metres from the rig.

Penwarden rejected any suggestion it was a publicity stunt, but it was aimed at showing New Zealanders “just what is going on out there”.

Whether the company found large amounts of oil and/or gas, the result would be the same for Penwarden.

“This is the dumbest thing to be doing in 2020, when we are trying to protect a survivable future.”

In December the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) granted consent to the Austrian oil and gas company to drill up to 10 exploration and appraisal wells, along with consent for associated discharges in the Great South Basin.

The Great Southern Basin is home to protected species including yellow-eyed penguins, albatross, southern right whales and New Zealand fur seals.

Penwarden, 60, said she won’t be going on the voyage as she was “a bit of a landlubber”.

But she was one of almost 30 protesters to occupy Skandi Atlantic, a support vehicle for OMV, which stopped in Timaru late last year.

Last week the Dunedin-based grandmother was issued with a trespass notice from the company warning her to stay away from several sites around New Zealand.

“It does look like OMV is feeling the pressure from little grandmas like me,” she said.

OMV has been approached for comment.

The Petroleum Exploration and Production Association (PEPANZ) chief executive John Carnegie told Stuff: “We strongly support the right to protest as long as it is lawful, peaceful and respects the rights of others.

“We just ask anybody at sea to respect the exclusion zones. The rules are there to protect the safety of both protesters and workers, which is a paramount concern for our industry.”

He said a successful commercial find could deliver a major economic boost to the South Island, and New Zealand.

“As we transition to a lower emissions world we’re still going to need new reserves of natural gas and oil, and it makes sense to develop that energy here in New Zealand rather than import it.

“Natural gas in particular is crucial to this transition as it replaces higher-emitting fuels and supports renewable electricity.”

Source: Stuff / Hamish McNeilly

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