Guarantees needed for oil exploration - Goff

New Zealanders need a guarantee that oil companies will foot the bill if deep sea drilling off the East Cape goes wrong, Labour leader Phil Goff says.

The call follows protests at the weekend in which swimmers from a Greenpeace protest flotilla forced a ship searching for oil in the Raukumara Basin to divert.

The Orient Explorer, owned by Brazilian state-owned oil company Petrobras, is operating under a five-year licence granted by the Government to carry out seismic testing.

It had just started a 60-day seismic programme, and Prime Minister John Key said yesterday the company should be allowed to carry out its work.

"No one is arguing that people don't have a right to protest but when it actually stops the company carrying out what it has been legally granted the ability to do, then that concerns me."

Mr Key said using navy patrols to protect the ship was an option, and Police National Headquarters said it was looking at its legal options on interceding.

"If it (the protest) was happening on dry land, then the police would be in a position to do something about it," he said.

"The question is whether the police are in a position to do something about it when it is in the EEZ, and Crown Law is clarifying that."

However, Mr Goff said there had to be better consultation with local people regarding oil and mineral exploration.

"We're not against oil and gas exploration, that brings in big royalties to New Zealand and it helps our balance of payments but we do need strong guarantees following the Gulf of Mexico, to ensure that safety and environmental considerations are fully taken into account," he said.

"All of the assurances that we get that everything's safe, everything's okay, the public's far less ready to accept those at face value.

"We need water tight guarantees that this is safe, and that if something goes wrong the full bill will be picked up by Petrobras, not the New Zealand taxpayer."





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