Labour is looking at the Norwegian model for regulating
the oil and gas industry, including stronger environmental
safeguards and steeper taxes.
Leader David Cunliffe yesterday said Labour supported deep
sea oil and gas exploration "in principle" but would pass
laws to toughen environmental protection.
However, Labour would not immediately halt existing
exploration programmes such as Texan company Anadarko's
exploration of the Taranaki and Canterbury basins.
His comments were in line with those of deputy David Parker
last year which followed mixed messages from the party, with
economic development spokesman Shane Jones extolling the
benefits in terms of jobs while other MPs such as Phil
Twyford attended anti-Anadarko protests. Mr Cunliffe
yesterday said New Zealand's law didn't require world's best
practice in deep sea oil exploration, "so we will be changing
the law so it does and we will expect future consents to meet
Labour was looking to other countries for a model.
"One country that we do respect highly is Norway. They have a
lot of experience in terms of offshore oil drilling and they
have good standards both for environmental management and
also for the way they deal with the finances which flow from
Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges says New
Zealand's regulation is already at world's best practice. But
Mr Parker said Norway's model differed from New Zealand's in
that it involved audits or rigorous government checks that
companies were complying with rules rather than taking it on
trust as New Zealand did.
Labour would also look to ensure the parent companies of oil
and gas companies operating in New Zealand were "on the hook"
for clean-up bills in the event of a spill. He would not
comment on possible changes to the financial treatment of oil
and gas companies but in Norway the industry faces effective
taxes of 78 per cent.
Mr Bridges said last year that the Government received
combined taxes and royalties from oil companies of about 42c
in the dollar. In Norway the figure was higher because "if
you sink a well in Norway chances are you'll find oil or gas.
We're not in that position".
Prime Minister John Key said Labour's support of deep sea
exploration put them at odds with potential coalition
partners the Greens.
But Greens co-leader Russel Norman said while his party
opposed deep sea oil exploration "that doesn't mean we can't
Mr Cunliffe said the Greens were aware of Labour's position
on deep sea exploration and "we have processes where we can
agree to disagree on different matters".
Mr Cunliffe said Labour had dropped its policies of having
the first $5000 of earnings tax free and of removing GST from
fresh fruit and vegetables.
"While these were worthwhile policies, we believe there are
better ways to help struggling Kiwi families," he said.
- Adam Bennett of the New Zealand Herald