Global financial crisis – all options need to be considered

The aftershocks from the global financial crisis continued to ripple around the world throughout 2010.

Here in New Zealand we have also had to contend with the collapse of finance companies, blizzards in Southland, drought in Northland, PSA in the Kiwifruit industry, the costs of leaky homes and schools, loss of life in the Pike River mine, experienced the two big earthquakes, and now potential support package for AMI policyholders.

We have to consider all options available to us to build our economy and broaden our economic base in these tough times, and for the future. There are three main ways we can do that: borrow, cut costs, and create wealth. We are doing all three. Oil and gas exploration is part of investing in areas to create wealth. It is estimated that oil and gas exploration could contribute significantly to our economy.

You may have seen in the news that Brazilian state-owned oil company Petrobras has begun a three and a half year research programme in the Raukumara Basin to see what, if any, gas or oil prospects exist off the East Cape.Petroleum exploration isn’t new in New Zealand. The first well was drilled here back in 1864.We have seen the difference the oil and gas industry has made to Taranaki.Venture Taranaki says in 2009 the industry employed more than 7000 people nationally and contributed $2.5 billion to national GDP. While there has been some opposition to exploration programme off the East Cape there has also been plenty of support.Of the nearly 8000 people recently surveyed in a website poll, 75.5 per cent of you said they were happy for oil and gas exploration in New Zealand waters.It will not be at the expense of our environment. While in New Zealand Petrobras must comply with the provisions of the Resource Management Act, the Maritime Transport Act, the Biosecurity Act, and the Health and Safety in Employment Act. Any legal obligations will be monitored by the relevant authority.The Department of Conservation also has guidelines for the Protection of Marine Mammals during seismic surveying, which Petrobras has committed to complying with. Petrobras will have a marine mammal officer on board at all times.

If, after carrying out their research Petrobras wants to drill a well, the Government is acutely aware of the need to manage the potential environmental impacts, both within the 12-nautical-mile limit around the coast, and beyond into our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The Ministry for the Environment is working on legislation to protect the environment in the EEZ.The environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in April last year reinforces the importance of this work. The Government is determined to ensure that New Zealand’s marine environment is properly protected.Norway is a good example of how significant oil and gas resources can be maximised for the benefit of all society, while ensuring the environment remains healthy for future generations.That is what we are aspiring to here in New Zealand.