Oil company told of penguin concerns

A Texas oil company which is expected to start exploratory oil and gas drilling off the Oamaru coast has been told the public expects it to ensure the environmental safety of a coast that is home to a yellow-eyed penguin colony at Bushy Beach and a colony of little blue penguins at Cape Wanbrow.

Oil company Anadarko is due to begin oil and gas exploration drilling off the Otago coast in early 2014, and Waitaki Mayor Alex Familton said he had now met company representatives.

Mr Familton said he had told Anadarko representatives that the community would be interested in seeing the company create a presence in the district, but, he said, he had also told them the community had ''an interest in preserving our very important'' penguin populations.

''They have taken that on board and there will be a clause in association with any drilling that will give assurance and assistance in any event that may be detrimental to the community.''

Anadarko NZ corporate relations manager Alan Seay said an exploration vessel was due to arrive in New Zealand early next year to conduct test drilling off the Taranaki coast and the Canterbury Basin, with drilling off the Otago coast likely to start early in 2014.

''The key area of interest to the communities and most of the people we have been talking to is environmental protection, whatever form that may take, and the assurance is given that we follow the most rigid procedures and practices in terms of environmental safety with the primary goal of assuring that no event happens.''

In the ''extremely unlikely event'' a mishap did happen, the company was committed to doing whatever was necessary to put it right, he said.