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Rash of oil and mineral protests nationwide

Environmental protests against oil, gas and gold mining have broken out from one end of the country to the other in the last two days.

Shell New Zealand closed down a public meeting in Dunedin this morning about its plans to explore in the Great South Basin, offshore Otago and Southland after a group said to number eight to 10 people made the meeting impossible to continue.

A day earlier, a large group of concerned Hawke's Bay residents mounted a peaceful protest outside an exploration site near Dannevirke, owned by TAG Oil.

And in Northland, a group associated with the iwi Ngati Hau is blockading a gold and silver prospecting site recently acquired by a little-known West Australian mining company, De Grey.

TAG, the Canadian oil and gas company, has grown a substantial operation with onshore Taranaki oil and gasfields and is now exploring East Coast tenements, looking for hydrocarbons in shale fields similar to those opening up vast new oil and gas wealth in the US and displacing coal as an energy source.

Campaigners in New Zealand fear the use of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking", to release hydrocarbons, although the commissioner for the environment has provisionally ruled it is safe if properly regulated.

The government announced over Easter weekend it would legislate to prevent protesters coming within 500m of an offshore oil platform operating in the Exclusive Economic Zone.

It has also sparked fears it is going back on its pledge not to mine in protected "Schedule 4" conservation lands by proposing to open Schedule 4 areas to low-impact prospecting.

The Puhihui licence in the Far North was recently sold by the Newmont mining company to De Grey.

"The opposition seem to have identified that the sooner they jump on these things, the greater their success is," executive director at minerals lobbyist Straterra Chris Baker says.

"They are very happy to run the line that exploration and mining are virtually the same thing.

"But the chances of mining are very low and you wouldn't be able to do that and produce toxic waste that impacted the environment."

De Grey is not a Straterra member, Baker said. "I have no idea what De Grey is proposing. It would be good to know what they've got in mind."

The Puhipuhi protest has been picked up as a campaign by the fast-growing global human rights and environmental activist network,

The protest at the TAG site included veteran Maori activist Mike Smith, who helped orchestrate the 2011 flotilla protest against seismic survey work in deep-water exploration licence areas held by the Brazilian oil giant Petrobras.

He worked with Greenpeace and local iwi Te Whanau a Apanui on that campaign.


Comments and questions

Greenpeace has had a full-on email campaign running for weeks now, trying to whip up some hysteria after the failure of the AGW scam. The protests didn't just "break out". This is a campaign, complete with requests for donations.

Keep your heads buried in the tars sands NBR readers. This one is a game changer.

Some things are more important than money. People's health, clean water and our beautiful environment, just for starters. That toxic fracking stuff will get into the underground water system. Frack off, TAG Oil!

Why has this comment got so many Dislikes? If our water becomes undrinkable, we're buggared. Don't forget that the waste water pumped down the fracking well has to be disposed of - how, exactly?

Strange, isn't it, how many green New Zealanders are quick to protest the slightest threat to our unique environment, our wildlife and our fragile endemic habitats and endangered species? Yet any threat posed to our unique culture and our collective endemic identity born of many generations by massive waves of emigration and immigration is met with silence.

It's a queer and disappointing thing when some [the Greens] think that the fishes in the sea are more worthy of saving than the unique culture and identity to which they belong. I guess they see no value in, or maybe they cannot see it at all - New Zealand's unique and threatened culture?

No, not strange at all. Greenpeace are an environmental agency, not a social policy interest group.

Has this government declared martial law in this country? I thought that was the only way the military could arrest NZ citizens.

No - and they don't need to, either.
Because they are democratically elected, receiving the largest-ever mandate and biggest-ever margin against Labour and the Greens, the government can make new laws for NZ Inc as needed.

Remember, any new laws only stop protesters from impeding or attempting to stop someone else going about their own lawful business. It doesn't stop the protesters' right to protest, it just stops them trying to hijack, trespass or transgress on someone else's property or rights ... and if they elect to break the law - then they can expect to be dealt with accordingly.

Meat workers at abattoirs should not be stopped going about their lawful business by the likes of PETA because they disagree. PETA can still have their lawful protests - just don't interfere in any one else's business or lawful ability to choose what or how they wish to spend their time.

Poor Solidarity. You alter the facts to suit your story and prejudices. Check the voting figures from the last election more carefully. National has only 59 seats. More people voted against him than for him. What mandate?

So you think its OK for the military to be able to arrest people? That's what they do in Fiji, isn't it? John Key becomes the Bainimarama of New Zealand and Simon Bridges his loyal Lieutenant. Banana republic here we come. Corporations, NZ is open for the raping.

Greenpeace doesn't need to spend a cent in this country to stop mining or oil and gas development so long as we have Labour or National governments who have done absolutely nothing to build those industries - and never will.

Look at what National are doing right now! Farmers in the area being fracked are delighted to hear that their precious spring water, the only water source that kept them from folding in the recent drought, is potentially going to be poisoned. Yeah, right. Farmers, National are not your friends.

Should we also mentioned the deliberately caused drought this summer. Geo-engineering the weather - it's no theory. Google it and see for yourselves. So, no, National are not the farmer's friend - and there's worse to come when the land and farm grab happens- as it has in the USA since NAFTA was signed. New Zealanders need to stand together against the corporate bill of rights that is the TPPA.

Without doubt whipped up by the Lada and Prius driving kids of the Coromandel. Not reflective of the views of the majority of New Zealanders, and hardly registering as a % of the NZ taxpayers.

I'm sure that these protests will be supported by the political wings of both Labour and Greens - it's an easy political goodwill win - and appears to score points and assuage one of their typical support bases.

But afterwards the same pollies will be bleating about New Zealand wages continuing to lag behind those of Australia will continue to happen.

Mining and exploration does create pollution, but it also creates high-value jobs and employment. Sometime soon the hard reality based decisions need to be made - because jobs in retail do not create much of a "living wage".

Declining hippy backwater, anyone?

NZ has the potential to be a Norway, leading the world in social welfare, cradle-to-grave provision. But first we need an oil and gas industry. NZ has 18 oil and gas sedimentary basins, but we only produce from 1 (Taranaki). Exploration and development can be totally safe, we just need to give EPA some balls.

Yes, but the govt is in the process of dismantling the safeguards that protect our environment - that's why everyone is protesting!!

Among the many achievements of fracking and other 'unconventional' extraction techniques in the US has been to enrich former rural backwaters (the Dakotas, Pennsylvania) - enabling them to free up money for social and rejunvenation projects; to provide a strong alternative to dirty technologies such as coal; and most importantly to dramatically reduce one of the most significant input costs for manufacturing, reviving the competitiveness of the US.

On the other hand, ignorant sloganeering is much more colourful and lilkely to get you laid, so I guess we still win in the end.

Perhaps I shouldn't have been totally surprised, given that this is NBR, but the protests aren't against the energy business per se, but rather against a method of extraction which is causing widespread pollution (see Aussie farmers on YouTube setting fire to the water from their wells after govt reps have declared the water perfectly safe). It's also acknowledged that fracking poses 'some risk of triggering a seismic event.' Great idea for the Shaky Isles - yeah,right.