End­ing the search for oil and gas a good start

Taranaki Daily News - - Comment & Opinion - AMANDA LARS­SON

The im­pacts of seis­mic blast­ing on the blue whales that live here is likely to be tor­tur­ous, in­ter­fer­ing with their com­mu­ni­ca­tion and feed­ing.

Imag­ine some­one fir­ing a nail gun in your kitchen. Ev­ery 10 sec­onds. For three months. You have nowhere else to eat. Imag­ine the im­pact on your stress lev­els, your health and your hear­ing.

This is a sce­nario renowned ma­rine ecol­o­gist, Dr Leigh Tor­res, re­cently in­vited us to con­sider - to put our­selves in the place of the whales, dol­phins and other ma­rine wildlife who could soon be suf­fer­ing the ef­fects of seis­mic blast­ing in their feed­ing grounds. The blasts are from ships tow­ing air can­nons and seis­mic ar­rays, kilo­me­tres long, in the hunt for oil un­der the seabed.

As we speak, the world’s largest seis­mic ex­plo­ration ship is wait­ing for the New Zealand Gov­ern­ment to ap­prove an ap­pli­ca­tion to be­gin blast­ing for oil across 19,000 square kilo­me­tres of the Taranaki Basin.

The 125 me­tre long ship, called the Ama­zon War­rior, is known to many in New Zealand as ‘The Beast’, af­ter caus­ing a storm of pub­lic op­po­si­tion last sum­mer when it spent seven months blast­ing for oil off the Wairarapa Coast.

This sum­mer, its owner - a com­pany called Sch­lum­berger - is propos­ing three months of con­stant blast­ing off the Taranaki Coast. That’s ev­ery 10 sec­onds, 24 hours a day. Its mis­sion is to dis­cover new petroleum re­serves for Aus­trian oil com­pany, OMV. Iron­i­cally, Aus­tria is a land­locked coun­try with no coast­line and no whales.

The per­mit area they’re in­ter­ested in is smack in the mid­dle of a re­cently dis­cov­ered blue whale habi­tat, the whale’s only known feed­ing ground in New Zealand.

The im­pacts of seis­mic blast­ing on the blue whales that live here is likely to be tor­tur­ous, in­ter­fer­ing with their com­mu­ni­ca­tion and feed­ing.

This area was opened up for oil and gas ex­plo­ration by the pre­vi­ous Gov­ern­ment, be­fore the whale habi­tat was dis­cov­ered. The new Gov­ern­ment now has a chance to turn this seis­mic ship around and to save the whales. Like with so many things, look­ing af­ter the health of our en­vi­ron­ment is also the key to sav­ing our­selves.

Burn­ing fos­sil fu­els like oil and gas se­verely dis­turbs the frag­ile at­mos­phere that con­trols our cli­mate, sea­sons and weather. Sci­en­tists now say we can’t even af­ford to burn the fos­sil fuel re­serves we al­ready know about. Search­ing for more makes no sense.

Al­ready, we’re be­gin­ning to feel the ef­fects of cli­mate change. Ex­treme weather events are be­com­ing far more reg­u­lar than a ‘one in 100 year storm’. Our coastal com­mu­ni­ties are start­ing to feel the pres­sure of ris­ing seas and storm surges. With a warm­ing planet, flood­ing on the scale of what we’ve seen in Edge­cumbe and South Dunedin would be­come in­creas­ingly com­mon. Droughts would be­come a more fre­quent re­al­ity for Can­ter­bury farm­ers.

There is sim­ply no greater threat to the peo­ple of New Zealand, our en­vi­ron­ment, in­fra­struc­ture, or econ­omy than cli­mate change. Pass­ing on a se­cure and abun­dant world to our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren re­quires us to ur­gently sta­bilise our cli­mate. That starts by putting an end to the search for new oil and gas.

Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern has called cli­mate change her gen­er­a­tion’s nu­clear free mo­ment. She’s right, and now is her mo­ment. Just as go­ing nu­clear free meant stop­ping the nu­clear ships, lead­ing on cli­mate change means stop­ping the oil ex­plo­ration ships.

Over 15,000 New Zealan­ders have al­ready signed a pe­ti­tion, launched only last week, call­ing on the Prime Min­is­ter to end oil ex­plo­ration and stop seis­mic blast­ing in the blue whale habi­tat this sum­mer.

This is just the lat­est sig­nal in a decade-long move­ment of op­po­si­tion to oil drilling by iwi and lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties up and down the coun­try. It’s a move­ment that is em­brac­ing the nat­u­ral tran­si­tion away from out­dated fu­els, and towards clean, re­new­able en­ergy.

Mass pub­lic op­po­si­tion is what gave our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers the courage to de­clare New Zealand a nu­clear free na­tion. It’s the man­date this new Gov­ern­ment now needs again. To put our pre­cious ma­rine life, our coastal com­mu­ni­ties and weath­erde­pen­dent farms be­fore the profits of face­less oil cor­po­ra­tions like OMV and Sch­lum­berger. It’s time to turn the oil ships around.

Amanda Lars­son is a cam­paigner at Green­peace New Zealand.

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