The fight against drilling for oil off Raglan has turned increasingly political, with minor party politicians savaging the Government at a big weekend rally at Manu Bay and concerned locals renewing their efforts to persuade the National Government that a “cowboy” Texan oil giant’s actions could threaten New Zealand’s economy.
The crowd of about 300 who turned out at Manu Bay heard Green Party mining spokesperson Catherine Delahunty claim New Zealanders were living under a dictatorship which had “done a deal with Anadarko to rip off our oil”, and firebrand Mana Party leader Hone Harawira lambast a “deal done behind closed doors”.
Meanwhile former Raglan Community Board chairman Rodger Gallagher, working in tandem with Whaingaroa Environmental Defence member John Lawson, has renewed through “local” MP Shane Ardern a call to the Government to declare a moratorium on drilling off Raglan until “what seems very much a cowboy operation” is sorted out.
Rodger says ultra deep sea oil drilling carries a moderately risky chance of a spill “and that is why Anadarko have set up a structure to avoid liability”. He points out the licence has been granted to Anadarko NZ, a shell company whose equity of $NZ34 million is not enough to clean up one day’s pollution.
He also reiterates Anadarko NZ is fully owned by a company in the Cayman Islands – a country used for tax dodges and with minimal company law – and that the drill ship due to start work off Raglan any day now is registered in Liberia, which has weak maritime laws and minimal insurance requirements.
He predicts the taxpayer would have to cover the entire cost of a blow-out or spill and our economy would bear the financial loss, estimating that a $26 million insurance policy the Government required Anadarko to take out would cover 0.06 percent of a major clean-up’s cost.
In one of his latest emails to Shane, John Lawson notes the chances of a blowout seem greater than the chance of his house burning down. And he asks if the Government or Anadarko will cover his losses if the worst happens “with an oil well I won’t benefit from, haven’t asked for and have no opportunity to question if it’s being run safely”.
Meantime Tainui Awhiro hapu environmental spokesperson Angeline Greensill, who coincidentally has stood previously as a candidate for the Mana Party, has made clear to Shane Ardern that the Tainui hapu of Raglan was not consulted by Crown Minerals over plans to drill for oil off Raglan. She adds she also doesn’t see evidence of engagement with other west coast hapu.
At last Saturday’s Manu Bay protest Angeline pointed seawards and told the crowd scattered around the grassy amphitheatre: “If anything happens out there we are stuffed – and not just Raglan, the whole country… this government needs to go”.
What exactly was happening “out there” – 110 nautical miles west of Raglan – when the Chronicle went to press yesterday was effectively a standoff between the Oil Free Seas Flotilla and the drill ship the Noble Bob Douglas.
Although other yachts retreated from the spot where Anadarko wants to drill, the Vega — co-captained by Greenpeace executive director Bunny McDiarmid and former longtime Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons – was holding its position against the giant, 229-metre drill ship.
And while the rest of the flotilla was reported to have moved outside the 500 metre exclusion zone, the defiant Vega crew had radioed the Noble Bob Douglas that “we’re not moving”.
*An important date for protesters is at midday this Saturday (November 23), when a “Banners on the Beach” rally will be held on many west coast beaches”.