Nordic oil giant granted permit

A permit for oil exploration in the Reinga Northland Basin has been awarded to Norwegian energy company Statoil Lambda.

The Government says the five permits awarded yesterday off the New Zealand coast collectively represent $62 million in committed expenditure on initial exploration. If successful, that could lead to further exploration work worth $720 million.

There is no breakdown of what the potential dollars look like for Northland.

The 15-year Reinga-Northland permit covers 9818.9km sq, about 100km offshore, in water up to 2000m deep.

The area was in the permit block offer announced on November 8, 2012.

Statoil has to collect new seismic data and undertake a sea floor survey within the first three years.

Health, safety and the environment is always the company's first priority, said a Statoil senior vice president Erling Vagnes.

Statoil will now enter extensive dialogue with New Zealand authorities, engage with a wide range of stakeholders in order to understand the local community, and ensure adherence with local regulations, customs and considerations, Mr Vagnes said.

Statoil employs 23,000 people in 33 countries, and 67 per cent of the company is owned by a Norwegian government pension fund.

Northland MP Mike Sabin and Whangarei's Phil Heatley have been quick to applaud the permit but the Green Party, iwi, conservationists and anti-drilling campaigners are not so welcoming.

Greens energy spokesman Gareth Hughes said the major benefits will go to "Norwegian pensioners". At 42 per cent, including all associated business taxes, this Government's royalty take is the fourth lowest in the world, Mr Hughes said.

But Mr Sabin is predicting the move will put Northland "on the map as a destination for investors in oil and gas". Mr Sabin said the National Government was committed to developing the country's oil, gas and minerals resources.

Mr Heatley said as a Minister of Energy and Resources he visited a Statoil rig in the North Sea. "Northland couldn't host a more environmentally conscious and experienced company ..."

Earlier this month about 200 people attended a hui at Ahipara about the then proposed permits, where concerns were raised about inadequate local consultation by New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals or other agencies.

Yesterday the convenor Rueben Taipari Porter said the resolution from that hui remained the same: "We will not support any oil exploration in the Reinga basin at all [because] there has been no proper consultation whatsoever."

Te Runanga o te Rarawa, representing several Far North hapu, had called for a postponement of the permit issue while Treaty of Waitangi claims relevant to the area are in the pipeline.

- By Lindy Laird of the Northern Advocate

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