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Friday, December 16, 2011

Art exhibition tracks trace of deadly spill

This is the last day of an exhibition put together by Greenpeace activists that traces the deadly effects on wildlife of the Rena oil spill. A dead penguin was dipped in oil and then placed on canvas to commemorate the environmental devastation caused by the Rena spilling 350 tonnes of oil into the ocean off the coast of Tauranga. More than 20,000 birds died after drowning in the oil and the exhibition provides a reminder of an ephemeral life.

The exhibition also aims to draw attention to National's plans to open our waters to more deep oil sea drilling. The Brazilian company Petrobras is seeking a permit to drill oil off the East Coast, a move that has been challenged by Te Whanau-a-Apanui and Greenpeace through the High Court next year. While Petrobras is seeking to explore outside the 12 mile Exclusive Economic Zone, Te Whanau-a-Apanui are contesting this through the Waitangi Tribunal, arguing that it does not adequately address Treaty of Waitangi obligations, iwi concerns or environmental concerns.

Gisborne District Councillor Manu Caddie has challenged Petrobras' claims of a squeaky clean environmental record after an explosion at one of their Argentinian refineries earlier this year:

Mr Caddie says the death of this Petrobras employee and disfigurement of his colleague follow a similar explosion at a Petrobras refinery in Argentina three years ago, a major incident in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year as the company prepared to start the first new extraction since the Deepwater Horizon disaster and the assassination two years ago of a fisherman and ongoing intimidation of his colleagues who have been protesting against a Petrobras pipeline in Guanabara Bay, Brazil.

The exhibition can be seen at number 2 Queen Street today, directly opposite the Ferry Building and is well worth checking out. It is a potent reminder that while oil might bring money into the country, it also carries high environmental risks that affect a large number of people and our wildlife.


At 28/12/11 8:27 am, Blogger Frank said...

Indeed, Phoebe.

The 'Rena' stranding was a clear, unequivocal warning to us that the consequences of a deep-sea oil-drilling disaster would be an event that would be utterly beyond our capabilities to handle.

We could barely cope with the 'Rena'. A deep sea disaster would overwhelm us, with the potential of destroying much of our east Coast of the North Island.

Will New Zealanders heed that warning?

I doubt it. We are the same nation, after all, that re-elected a government despite 66% of us opposing asset sales.

In effect, there are some mightily thick voters out there in Voterland.

If we do have a Gulf of Mexico-style disaster, one thing is for sure; John Key may as well hang up his Minister of Tourism portfolio. There simply won't be much left of that industry to be minister of.


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