Council green as grass on oil exploration issue

Dave Cull.
Dave Cull.
The latest version of the Dunedin City Council has been quick to show its green credentials.

A majority of nine ''yes'' votes overwhelmed four ''no'' votes and an abstention when the council voted to call on the Government to place a moratorium on deep-sea oil and gas exploration and extraction.

The vote was, in a way, an early test of the collective thinking of the new council after last month's elections, in which there were allegations of a green ''bloc'' that voted together at meetings.

Yesterday, councillors were required to vote on the local authority's draft submission to the Government's ''block offer'' for next year, when the Government invites applications for permits to explore for petroleum resources, primarily oil and gas, in defined blocks of land and sea.

The block offer in 2013 included areas off the Otago coast, and the council has made submissions on the issue since then, after inviting community feedback.

Council corporate policy manager Maria Ioannou said in a report councillors resolved in 2015 to call on the Government to place a moratorium on exploration in New Zealand waters.

''However, this position may no longer reflect the views of the new council following local government elections earlier this year.''

The submission presented to the council yesterday for consideration included the call for a moratorium.

Before councillors discussed the matter they listened to a stream of people, all of whom used a public forum to argue they should continue their opposition.

Oil Free Otago's Brooke Cox said her group was relying on councillors to be ''a voice of reason'', to take a strong stand and say ''no'' to the block offer.

''It's time to think about how you are remembered as a council.''

Auckland and Christchurch city councils had opposed the offers, and Dunedin should
continue to do so.

The meeting also heard from other opponents of the offer, including members of the Catholic community.

Cr Lee Vandervis asked Ms Ioannou if the submissions from the past had an effect on the Government, to which she responded ''no''.

Cr Andrew Whiley, who drew derisive laughter at times from Oil Free Otago supporters in the public gallery, asked about feedback from the community that opposed the block offer.

''Are you referring to the silent majority or vocal minority?'' Cr Whiley asked.

Ms Ioannou said submissions were consistently opposed to exploration.

Cr Aaron Hawkins moved the council approve the submission in line with existing policy, calling for all applications to be declined by the Government.

Cr Whiley said coal was the worst offender for climate change, and gas was a good way to move people away from its industrial use.

But Cr Jim O'Malley said arguments relating to coal use in other countries were ''spurious'', as New Zealand was a country that used renewable energy.

Technology, like the use of electric cars, was changing quickly, and more people were moving in that direction.

Cr Damian Newell said it was time to move away from all fossil fuel use.

There was no need to use gas as a transition to electric power for cars as electric vehicles were ''catching on very quickly''.

Cr Christine Garey said the community was looking to the council for leadership on the issue.

The council would be ''shooting ourselves in the foot'' if it did anything to endanger its wildlife tourism.

Councillors, she said, had a moral responsibility to the young to make good decisions about climate change.

Mayor Dave Cull described arguments about the thoughts of a silent majority as ''spurious''.

His own views on the issue had changed in the past few years, and he thought if there was a silent majority, its views were also changing on the need to deal with climate change.

Crs David Benson-Pope, Garey, Hawkins, Marie Laufiso, Newell, O'Malley, Chris Staynes, Kate Wilson and Mr Cull voted for the submission opposing the block offer.

Crs Whiley, Conrad Stedman, Mike Lord and Doug Hall voted against, while Cr Rachel Elder abstained.

Cr Vandervis had left the room to attend an appointment when the vote was taken.


"Green as grass" is certainly right---as in wet behind the ears.

It's these kinds of ill-informed and meaningless gestures that keep local government in low repute.

How interesting, you disagree with this. But why didn't YOU get off your backside and make an effort to go to the meeting? All very well commenting how stupid council (that you let get elected) are after the fact. Why would you let this happen? Obviously don't care enough to be anything but complacent. Complacency is getting you a clean inhabitable world where Dunedin's tourism is protected. It's rubbish. Momentum is on their side and you can only stop them if you stop being lazy. You should take your opinion to council next time, laziness and complaining afterwards is what makes this happen. Stop whining.

'ill informed'? The planet is suffering from human produced climate change. Fossil fuels are the major cause. The technology exists to -at the very least mitigate the impact. All that is needed is the political will to take advantage of these technologies and build a new economy based on them Need more info? I think not.

In your opinion, Coker, which I'm sure is shared by the anti Green cohort.

I suggest you consider the points made by Cr Garey: protect wildlife tourism, a major industry, and don't ruin the place for our children and grandchildren.

It's the perfect thing for the council to take a stand on - something which they have no control over. God forbid the council stops using oil and gas themselves or stops people from farming methane producing cows!



Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter