Jubilation and disquiet as Petrobras pulls out

News that Brazilian oil giant Petrobras has abandoned its search for oil and gas in the Raukumura Basin has been greeted with jubilation by anti-exploration crusaders and disappointment by the business sector.

The company yesterday handed back its five-year permit to explore and drill the offshore East Coast block.

Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon told Radio NZ this morning that drilling in the ocean presented a major environmental concern to the region and he was relieved the company had pulled out.

His response was echoed by East Coast environmentalists.

"This is the best news," said Hick's Bay's Ani Pahuru-Huriwai, founding member and spokeswoman of the anti-exploration Ahi Ka Action Group.

"While Petrobras says that the protest action was not a factor, we would say it was due to pressure from our Te Whanau a Apanui tuakana, Greenpeace and the public of Aotearoa who have got behind to support this."

Green Party energy spokesman Gareth Hughes said the withdrawal left the Government's ambitions for deep sea drilling "in tatters".

"Petroleum development, including deep-sea drilling, is the wrong focus for our economy," he said.

"Petrobras' risky plans attracted massive public opposition. The Government simply does not have a public mandate to continue to expand this dangerous industry."

But Gisborne Chamber of Commerce president Gavin Murphy saw Petrobras' withdrawal as "a blow for economic development opportunities for the Bay of Plenty, East Coast and Tairawhiti regions".

"While there was a lot of water to go under the bridge before development occurred - and the size of the prize and issues needing to be resolved were still all in front of the company - it is a real setback to the opportunity to develop these resources," Mr Murphy said.

- By Kristine Walsh of the Gisborne Herald

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