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Te Whanau a Apanui/Greenpeace to appeal Petrobras decision


Te Whānau ā Apanui and Greenpeace have appealed the High Court’s decision declining to overturn a permit given to Brazilian oil company Petrobras to drill for oil in the deep water off the East Cape.

Greenpeace and te Whānau ā Apanui have lodged the appeal with the Court of Appeal on the basis that the High Court made several errors of law.

The Minerals Programme for Petroleum - which Gerry Brownlee, the Minister for Energy and the Minister who gave Petrobras the permit, was legally required to follow - required consideration to be given to any international obligations that were relevant in managing the petroleum resource. Greenpeace argued that this must include environmental considerations, which Mr Brownlee told the High Court that he did not consider before granting the permit.

But in the High Court Justice Gendall held that the Minister did not have to consider any environmental obligations, including any international environmental obligations, when he granted the permit. Greenpeace and te Whānau ā Apanui are appealing this finding.

They are also appealing the finding that the Crown did not breach its Treaty of Waitangi obligations, including duties of active protection and proper consultation with iwi before awarding the permit.

“Crown Minerals told us that the potential effects of the oil exploration would be ‘generally minor, short-term and restricted to small areas’”, says te Whānau ā Apanui’s Rikirangi Gage.

“But the expert affidavits that we put before the Court show that seismic testing has effects on marine mammals and fish, and that the exploratory phase is the most dangerous part of the oil production process. The Deepwater Horizon, which exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, spilling 627,000 tonnes of oil, was also an exploratory well.

“Petrobras’ permit actually requires it to drill an exploratory well. We could potentially have a Deepwater Horizon on our hands, off the East Cape and Bay of Plenty.

“Given that an area twice the size of the North Island was closed to fishing after the Deepwater Horizon spill, that would be a disaster for the whole country,” Gage says.

"Greenpeace does not believe that deep sea oil exploration can ever be safe. If we are to prevent catastrophic, runaway climate change, the oil industry must not be allowed to open up its last, extreme frontiers, either in the Arctic, or in the deep waters off New Zealand," Greenpeace NZ Climate Campaigner Vanessa Atkinson says.

“It is clear to just about everyone that the future, whether you’re talking about economic prosperity, keeping our clean green reputation, or the survival of our planet, is in clean energy,” Atkinson says.