Government should 'work with us, not against us' Taranaki Chamber of Commerce CEO says
22 March 2018
OPINION: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's words to those presenting a petition calling for a stop to oil and gas exploration which her Government was "actively considering" creates an unfortunate uncertainty. This uncertainty would adversely affect the livelihood of tens of thousands of Kiwis in Taranaki and other parts of the country.
However, it is reassuring to know that the Prime Minister wants to take time to assess the situation rather than make an immediate decision to appease petitioners that form just one per cent of our population.
It is far too early for the government to be considering stopping exploration permits as New Zealand has not reached a stage where it can guarantee 100% renewable energy by 2035. There is no evidence to prove this and hence to introduce stopping of further exploration is very premature.
Her statement is already sending out the wrong message to the oil and gas companies that are here or others who may be considering investing in New Zealand.
A lot more work needs to be done to ensure a successful transition from gas to renewable energy.
Of course the Taranaki Chamber of Commerce wants to see more investment in renewable energy. We are 100 per cent behind reducing our carbon footprint, just like most New Zealanders. Renewable energy in the future is one of the key cornerstones of the regional development plan, 'Tapuae Roa – Make Way for Taranaki', which we fully support.
It is absolutely vital that the inevitable transition period must be carefully planned in conjunction with the petroleum sector and stakeholders, such as iwi, local government and affected industries and communities.
The oil companies should continue to be held fully accountable for management of risk of drilling, transfer and storage and the most stringent industry standards should be adopted, with greater transparency. For many decades we have experienced in Taranaki how the petroleum sector has co-existed successfully with a pristine environment and a burgeoning visitor industry.
Let's take a look at a very small sample of some of the philanthropic work projects and activities where the petroleum sector contributes towards the region-
Starting with Shell, who for strategic reasons is selling its remaining NZ assets to OMV, which has been a major contributors in the past and present to Puke Ariki, Taranaki Secondary School Sports, Young Enterprise Scheme, various bio-diversity projects like Taranaki Mounga Projects, bringing back kōkako to Taranaki, Kaitiaki for marine life, NZ's only dedicated wildlife hospital and many more.
Methanex – Sponsors of the Taranaki Heart Foundation, North Taranaki Sports and Recreation Facility, The Taranaki Regional Council Environmental Awards, Methanex Bell Block Aquatic Centre, Taranaki Rescue Helicopter Trust, Methanex Maths Spectacular Event, Duffy Books in Homes, Riding for the Disabled, Puanga Festival in Waitara and the University of Canterbury, Relay for Life, Children's Extravaganza Day and the education industry.
Todd Energy – Major partners of the New Plymouth Aquatic Centre, the Len Lye Centre, Womad, Coastguard Taranaki, Kart Klub Raceway in Waitara, amongst many other projects and initiatives.
There are many other oil companies that support local sport clubs, schools and scores of charities and not-for-profit organisations.
These are the kind of relationships and investments that our community stands to eventually lose.
The Taranaki Chamber of Commerce and its members have a vested interest in the wellbeing of everyone in our community and our message to Prime Minister Ardern and her advisers is please consider the following:
As per 'the wealth beneath our feet – the next steps' report published by Venture Taranaki in 2015, there were 11,720 Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) employed (indirect and induced effects) by this industry nationwide. Their livelihood stands to be jeopardised by stopping future oil and gas exploration.
The above report found that the oil and gas industry pumped $1.57billion into Taranaki's GDP and $2.79 billion into the country's economy. Surely these are considerations to be made before sending out signals of 'we are trying to make up our mind.'
There would be flow-on detrimental effects, from the benefits of the oil and gas industry, in local businesses from the dry cleaning store, to retail shops, real estate and schools. A majority of our SMEs would be affected."
It is not in the best economic interests of Aotearoa to put up a sign saying it is closed for business and create a climate of doubt or reservation among the global oil and gas sector.
New Zealand's energy generation was 80 per cent renewable energy and all of our natural gas comes from Taranaki.
Gas is the cleanest and most reliable form of energy.
One only has to think of the inconvenience and huge economic loss to the country when the Maui gas pipeline was out of service a few years ago.
As the local Chamber of Commerce we continue to work with many stakeholders on behalf of the business community in the region. We are also extremely conscious that we all have a stake in being good citizens and ensuring our environment is cared for in a way that future generations would approve.
We urge the government to please work with us, not against us