The good news on the economic front keeps on coming. Two of New Zealand major metropolitan daily newspapers have recent editorials on the decision of a consortium of oil exploration companies to spend around two hundred million dollars to explore the great Southern Basin.
The NZ Herald has described the decision to explore as follows:
“Shell's decision is important for several reasons. New Zealand, as much as the explorer, needs to know the extent of its oil and gas resources. Even Taranaki has been explored only moderately. The Great South Basin is an important part of this puzzle, and Shell's exploration will, hopefully, act as a spur to Woodside Petroleum, which, with New Zealand Oil and Gas, was last month granted a licence in the same region.”
It is important to recognise that this is not oil or gas production just yet but merely finding out what is out there and if will be commercial to exploit them at some stage in the future.
If they do find them then it may have the potential to transform at least a part of the New Zealand economy. As the Christchuch Press points out the benefits of the oil and gas sector in Taranaki have been immense:
"Oil and gas production from wells in the Taranaki basin are already our fourth biggest export and generate hundreds of millions in revenue for the Government. The industry has made Taranaki one of the most prosperous regions in the country and created more than 3000 jobs”
Of course there needs to be a weighing up of the potential downside of doing so but the Press suggests this will be small:
“One of the objectors' grounds is the risk of pollution. The risk in general is extremely small but in this case it is practically non-existent. The consortium is almost certain that if the field is commercially workable, the product will be not be oil but gas. In addition, the Government, with the support of the Maori, Act, United Future and Green parties, last year passed a law extending New Zealand's environmental protection laws to cover all the waters of our exclusive economic zone. That was done deliberately to ensure any offshore drilling would be carried out to the highest possible safety standards.”
This has not stopped the usual suspects, (who seem to oppose any form of economic development beyond that funded directly by government and receiving their seal of approval), from jumping up and down demanding this sort of activity ceases immediately. There is a protest planned for Dunedin tomorrow involving a symbolic blockade of the harbour.
While I am sure the organisers of the blockade believe the symbolism has something to do with them doing what ever it takes to stop the oil exploration I think it is quite symbolic as well. It reflects their compunction to stop others from carrying out lawful activities and their desire to impede economic development to the detriment of all the rest of us.