You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Environmental Protection Authority hearings started yesterday relating to OMV's intentions to drill an oil and gas exploration well costing about $80million in the Great South Basin this summer.
It is required by its permit to do so before July 2021.
The hearing was called a ''farce'' by environmentalists, including Oil Free Otago spokesman Adam Currie, as the topic of climate change was barred from being considered.
About 40 protesters gathered outside the building in the late morning holding signs and singing songs.
OMV New Zealand said it respected their democratic right to express points of view, but asked them to do so lawfully.
Hearing consideration was limited to the effects of a small potential discharge of harmful substances from the drill rig's deck drains.
However, this did not stop submitters on both sides from discussing the wider environmental and economic implications of gas and oil drilling.
University of Otago Emeritus Professor of Botany Sir Alan Mark said during his submission he believed the application lacked essential detail.
It was ''quite anomalous'' not to be able to discuss climate change, he said.
''It's like being asked to fight fire, but not being able to use water. Humanity faces an existential threat and we are not acting quickly enough.''
Submitter Brenda Stebbings said not even one cup of harmful substances should be allowed to be discharged and the company's plans were at odds with the views of the community.
Submitter and Extinction Rebellion member Jen Olsen said there was a ''complete lack of consultation'' throughout the hearing process.
Petroleum Exploration and Production Association New Zealand policy manager Joshua O'Rourke said the consent was for a very small discharge with minor effects and should be granted.
Natural gas helped to ensure electricity remained affordable and was a useful transition fuel, he said.
OMV legal counsel James Winchester said the consent was ''very much a precautionary application'' and would likely not be needed.
The maximum discharge of a harmful substance would be 250ml and would be diluted through the drainage system.
The company said it did not yet know the precise substances.
However, the volumes were so low and receiving body so large that ''even if the most ecotoxic substances are used and then discharged the risk and adverse effects would be negligible,'' Mr Winchester said.
OMV New Zealand head of exploration, development and production Henrik Mosser said environmental protection was one of the company's ''top priorities'' and it was spending $40million in the next three years on emission reduction projects.
However, he admitted when questioned its carbon reduction initiatives mainly related only to the oil and gas the company used itself, rather than what it sold.
The hearing is planned to last two more days, although yesterday ran ahead of schedule.