Odds of NZ oil spill 'very low'

Simon Bridges
Simon Bridges
The chance of an oil spill in New Zealand waters is "very low", and the Government is "confident" a natural disaster will not occur as a result of deep sea oil and gas exploration, Energy Minister Simon Bridges says.

He defended the opening up of eight new areas to exploratory drilling last week, which put a further of 405,000 square kilometres on offer for the controversial practice.

Speaking on TV One's Q+A programme this morning, the Energy and Resources Minister said he was "confident" oil would not spill on to New Zealand beaches.

Asked if he was 90 per cent or 100 per cent confident, he said: "Well, I'm more than that."

"If you take the international best evidence that's 0.025 [per cent of risk], it's very low," he said.

"We can't say that there will never be an oil spill, but we can have the very best practices and processes in place, and I believe we do."

Companies that applied for a licence to drill must prove they are safe, he said.

Mr Bridges also denied that New Zealand was being put up for sale, and was starting to sound "desperate" for foreign oil companies to take up the chance to drill in New Zealand waters.

"No I don't accept that," he said.

"If you look at the permitting process, this is a two-way street - in one way, yes, we need those companies to come here, we want them to spend their money on that, but remember when they do come, when they do put in their application, they must be at best practice, we assess their financial capability, their technical capability and their experience, and if they're not good enough in New Zealand's interests they don't make the cut."

His comments came after oil giant Anadarko reached a US$5.15 billion settlement agreement with the US government over environmental contamination claims related to Tronox Inc, a spinoff of Kerr-McGee Corp, a company Anadarko acquired in 2006.

Texan company, Anadarko, plugged and abandoned an exploratory well off the coast of Taranaki, and decided not to drill a second possible well after drilling in the little-explored Canterbury Basin over the summer.

Last week Mr Bridges announced eight new areas would be included for oil and gas exploration in the Government's 2014 Block Offer, including three onshore and five offshore sites.

- By Patrice Dougan of APNZ

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