NEW Zealand’s prime minister has accused Greenpeace of scaremongering with its report that a deep-sea oil spill in the country’s waters would have catastrophic effects.
“The risk is minuscule, there’s probably a much greater risk of us having another Rena, another ship hitting a reef,” John Key said on Wednesday.
“This is scaremongering from Greenpeace – the reality is that there’s been 50,000 wells drilled in the Gulf of Mexico since the 1960s and they’ve had a problem with one of them.”
Energy Minister Simon Bridges says the report doesn’t recognise that a significant oil spill is “exceptionally unlikely” and New Zealand’s regulatory regime around drilling is world’s best practice.
“I’m excited that we have an unprecedented oil and gas exploration season coming up,” he said.
“I’m not glib about the risks, but I think they are exceptionally small and we manage them very well indeed.”
The Greenpeace report warns a blowout at a deep-sea oil well could cause a spill affecting vast swathes of New Zealand’s coastline, requiring a massive clean-up effort.
Texas oil giant Anadarko is scheduled to begin drilling at two deep-sea sites this summer – one in the Taranaki Basin and one in the Canterbury Basin.
The report modelled oil spill scenarios at those two sites, concluding a blowout would cause a spill that would pollute large areas of coastline.
The Greens are demanding an end to offshore drilling.
Co-leader Russel Norman says the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico wasn’t expected.
“But it did happen, and that’s the basic reality,” he said.
“It was tremendously damaging and tremendously expensive.”
Dr Norman says it was very difficult to plug the leaking Deepwater Horizon well – and all the technology was right there.
“The Gulf is jam-packed with rigs, whereas in New Zealand we’d have to wait until a rig arrived to drill a relief well – and that could take many, many weeks.”
The New Zealand oil industry says offshore wells in the exploration areas wouldn’t have the pressure to cause the damage the report forecasts.
It says oil won’t flow out by itself and pumps have to be installed to extract it.