Nov 28, 2013 

Labour Split In the Deep Sea


The drillship Noble Bob Douglas in the preparation stages for drilling. Photo / Greenpeace

Shane Jones’ comments in support of Anadarko’s deep sea oil drilling has left Labour Deputy Leader David Parker scrambling to reconcile his outspoken economic development spokesman’s views with the opposition voiced by MPs Moana Mackey and Phil Twyford.

Mr Jones told Maori TV’s Te Kaea this week that he supported the Texan company’s drilling programme off the Raglan coast at depths of 1500m.

“If oil is discovered we can use that to benefit New Zealand and create job opportunities for our young people in this industry”Mr Jones said in comments translated from Te Reo by Maori TV.

When questioned on the risks of an oil spill, Mr Jones said: “We mustn’t assume that Anadarko doesn’t have the necessary expertise on hand”.

The comments appear to put Mr Jones at odds with caucus colleagues including Mr Twyford who attended a protest against Anadarko’s drilling held at Piha over the weekend.

“I’m at Piha protesting at the Government’s reckless promotion of deepsea drilling risking Gulf of Mexico spill with Dads Army response capacity”, Mr Twyford tweeted from the protest.

Ms Mackey has been a vocal critic of the Government’s consent process under which Anadarko’s drilling was approved and has questioned the ability of the company and the government to deal with a major spill in deep water.

Leader David Cunliffe last week also said the Government had not been honest with the public about the risks involved in deep water drilling.

Late last month he told the Herald Labour’s position was that it would potentially support Anadarko’s drilling if it met best-practice and environmental and clean-up standards, but it didn’t yet.

Yesterday, however, Mr Parker said Labour did support Anadarko’s drilling.

“It’s legal and we’re not saying we would close down existing consents.”

“I’m not saying Anadarko’s doing world’s best practice because I simply don’t know. What I’m saying is we acknowledge that what they’re doing is legally in compliance with the law but we’re going to tighten the law to ensure that world’s best practice is met and that all future consents will require to be at world’s best practice if they are to get approval.

“The industry tells us they’re confident they can meet that standard. We’re not reversing current approvals or banning duly approved drilling into the future.”

He denied his party’s position had changed.

“Our position is that we’ve been saying that the existing consent processes for deep sea drilling in our view are opaque and lax and it’s unclear that New Zealand’s got the response capacity if something goes wrong.”

By Adam Bennett