"A 34,000 tonne embarrassment" - Giant foreign oil rig appears in NZ waters

By Mare Haimona-Riki

Austrian Oil giant OMV has sent a 34,000 tonne oil rig, the size of a rugby field, into New Zealand waters today. 

The appearance of the rig in Aotearoa comes only a year after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s declaration on August 8th 2018 that “we will no longer be issuing any new offshore oil and gas exploration permits."

The new policy, however, does not include existing permits that a company had prior to the announcement. 

This means that companies including OMV, who already had a permit, can still legally carry out their oil drilling plans, which in this case includes twelve new wells off the Taranaki coast and 10 wells in the Great South Basin.

Speaking to host Moana Maniapoto on new current affairs show Te Ao with Moana, Ardern sought to reassure the public of her government's green credentials.

"We are one of the few countries who have now said we will stick to a 1.5 degree goal of no more warming beyond that, because if we don't, our Pacific neighbors will suffer," said Ardern.

Jacinda Ardern discusses oil drilling with Moana Maniapoto (Source: Māori Television).

Greenpeace climate campaigner Amanda Larsson says the arrival of the OMV-contracted drill rig contradicts Jacinda Ardern’s declaration that climate change is her generation’s 'nuclear-free moment'.

“This OMV rig is a 34,000 tonne embarrassment.  It’s come from Norway– literally the other side of the world– to search for new oil and gas during a climate emergency,” says Larsson.

New Zealand received global praise last year when it became one of the first countries to ban new oil and gas exploration permits in response to the growing threat of the climate crisis.

According to Mike Smith, speaking for the Climate Change Iwi Leaders Group, the whole country saw Māori unite to protect the Foreshore and Seabed in 2004 and that led to the Labour government losing all of the Māori seats in parliament.

“There is no denying widespread Māori opposition to fossil fuel exploration and over the last decade Māori have consistently stood up against big oil,” says Smith.

To watch Ardern's full-length interview on Te Ao with Moana, click here.