Anti oil-rig protest tomorrow

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JACK.CONROY@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

Protesters opposed to the OMV oil rig off the Balclutha coast will stage a protest with a 4m-tall model at Elizabeth St plaza tomorrow.

The OMV rig sits 146km southeast off the coast in the Great South Basin.

While the rig and support vessels have been moved into position, the company has not given a precise date for the start of drilling.

Dunedin climate groups Oil Free Otago and Extinction Rebellion Otepoti, and Extinction Rebellion Invercargill, are bringing the model oil rig to Balclutha to draw attention to their message.

“We are in a climate crisis. The science is clear,” Oil Free Otago spokeswoman Rosemary Penwarden said.

“We can’t even burn most of what’s already discovered to keep a liveable climate, let alone explore for more in one of the most treacherous oceans on the planet.”

The groups plan to be in the plaza by 11am, with speakers talking to the public from noon.

The protesters say they are concerned about a similar outcome to the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

“One disaster like [Deep Water Horizon] .. could destroy everything,” Ms Penwarden said.

“OMV’s exploratory well is at a similar depth to BP’s but far more remote, with no help close by.”

“Our ocean is home to 38 the world’s whale and dolphin species, as well as endangered birds and fish.”

“One-third of the world’s albatross species call the Southern Ocean home. It is by far the most important albatross habitat on the planet.

An OMV spokesman said safety and protecting the environment were the company’s top priorities.

“We have done a lot of work to make sure everything will be done right,” he said.

An assessment submitted to the New Zealand Environmental Protection Authority found that potential environmental impacts from OMV’s Great South Basin drilling would be minor.

Any potentially harmful discharges will have a very localised and temporary effect.

“While it will not be issuing any more permits in the future, the Government has also said it will honour permits, like the GSB one, that are already in the system.”

Supplies of gas would still be needed for some time until alternative energy sources were developed, he said.

Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan said what was most important was public awareness.

“Something like this happening off our coast is for most people out of sight, out of mind,” he said.

“Oil exploration is important to our economy, but it’s also important to our environment .. so it’s getting that balance right and the first step is making sure that the public is aware, so when that calculation is made it’s made with the facts.”