Arun Chaudhari: Whether you're for or against oil and gas make a submission

Wednesday 10 October

Arun Chaudhari, CEO of the Taranaki Chamber of Commerce. (File photo).
STUFF
Arun Chaudhari, CEO of the Taranaki Chamber of Commerce. (File photo).

Regardless of your view on the oil and gas industry Taranaki Chamber of Commerce chief executive Arun Chaudhari says you should be submitting on the Crown Minerals (Petroleum) Amendment Bill.

The Background 

The Government's announcement to stop future offshore petroleum exploration permits on 12 April 2018 was an intention. On 26 September the Government introduced a Bill in Parliament to amend the Crown Minerals Act and bring that intention as legislation. If the Bill is passed then no new offshore petroleum exploration permits off New Zealand will ever be issued - by law. The closing date for submissions to be made is Thursday 11 October.

The issue 

Typically any such amendment would allow a four to six month period for submissions. In this case only two weeks are being allowed. So why the rush to hastily push through such a critical and contentious bill? The Government says it wants to get on with the onshore Block Offer for 2018. The industry says it is willing to forego a 2018 onshore Block Offer and would rather see a fair and democratic process be carried out to study the all-round impact of this Bill. Will it actually achieve lower emissions for NZ and for the world? Will it affect electricity prices for all of New Zealand? Is there enough electricity available now and in the near future for electric vehicles which we want? Will it drive away overseas investment? Will it result in job losses?

Personally, I would rather drive an electric vehicle, for all the right environmental reasons. I practice sustainability where I can and ask others to do it too. I learn more about best sustainable practices every day. Yes, I care deeply about our environment. I also care about every New Zealander being able to enjoy a sustainable and comfortable lifestyle with affordable electricity, to have a job, to have the ability to pay bills, to keep warm in winter and to have the best opportunities for a progressive and responsible future.

Any power company will tell you that we are virtually at capacity with our sources of electricity, which are about 85% renewable and 15% gas. Of these gas is the most reliable and has only half the emissions of coal. Most of our sizeable gas finds have been offshore – Pohokura and Kupe fields more recently and Maui several decades ago. Gas and renewables can and do work together! It does not have to be one or another. We can be less reliant on gas when we have built up enough reliable renewable energy infrastructure for meeting our future needs. Imagine if we had to start importing gas in a few years just because we were not permitted to look for it beneath our own feet?

Moving to a low-emissions economy is a laudable goal and I am proud that New Zealand is heading that way. But is this Bill going to get us that result? The evidence and advice from the experts seems to be overwhelmingly to the contrary. We will however support every possible move to build on all forms of renewable energy,

Call to action 

Irrespective of your views on oil and gas, I urge you to make your voice heard. We all need more time to be better informed and should be asking for an extension of at least four months to make submissions after carrying out a better due diligence process. If you care about the environment and the future of Taranaki and New Zealand, make an online submission on the Bill's submission page at Parliament's website. If you need help with the process please email the Taranaki Chamber of Commerce at admin@taranakichamber.co.nz