Revelations that a "worst-case" oil well blowout in New
Zealand waters could take five weeks to plug while equipment
is brought from Scotland highlight the need for public input
into offshore drilling decision-making, environmentalists
Anadarko's contingency plans for an uncontrollable blowout
involve airfreighting heavy engineering equipment from
Scotland to Singapore to assemble a capping stack which would
then be shipped to New Zealand, a three-week sea voyage.
The time needed to source, assemble, move and install the
capping stack is put at 35 days in the company's oil spill
management plan for its exploratory well off the Waikato
The plan was approved by Maritime NZ last year and released
under the Official Information Act before Christmas.
Under draft regulations to accompany the new Exclusive
Economic Zone Act, the Government plans to make offshore
drilling a non-notified activity, meaning applications will
not be subjected to public scrutiny.
Environmental Defence Society chairman Gary Taylor said there
was a lack of clarity and certainty about how a serious oil
spill would be responded to.
There seems to be a 'trust us - we know what we are doing'
attitude," Mr Taylor says.
"While the probabilities are low, the consequences are such
that we think there should be a public process, with the
ability to call expert witnesses, to ensure absolute best
practice is being applied."
Anadarko spokesman Alan Seay says such an event is extremely
unlikely and in any serious spill all companies operating
here would pool resources to respond.
The company's deepwater drilling programme is the first in a
new wave of offshore exploration in New Zealand, with permits
granted to five more companies for 2014.
Submissions on the EEZ non-notified activities regulations
close with the Ministry for the Environment on January 31.