Oil protestors block entrance to New Plymouth industry conference

Protesters and police have clashed outside the Petroleum Conference in New Plymouth.

At least two protesters fell to the ground as police attempted to move them on. One may have been injured and an ambulance briefly treated someone at the scene.

The protesters managed to block access to the event, leaving around 30 delegates waiting to get in. With protesters blocking every entrance, it's uncertain whether the attendees will get in at all.

Protesters block the entrance to the 2017 Petroleum Conference (Briar Marbeck/Newshub)
Protesters block the entrance to the 2017 Petroleum Conference (Briar Marbeck/Newshub)

The event is attended by members of the oil and gas industry, with the Government due to announce the 2017 Block Offer to the industry - an annual tender of petroleum exploration permits.

Delegates wait outside the conference. (Briar Marbeck/Newshub)
Delegates wait outside the conference. (Briar Marbeck/Newshub)

The protesters, however, are demanding an end to all new oil and gas operations.

"Oil is wrecking our climate and we need to wean ourselves off oil," Amanda Larsson, campaigner for Greenpeace told Newshub at the protest.

"The oil industry was hoping to come here and quietly make plans to drill more oil on land and sea here in New Zealand. We've shone a spotlight on that and not let them make those plans quietly, because we're here to say that if we're to have a future, oil can have no future." 

The protest is being co-ordinated by the People's Climate Rally, who say it's significant that the event is being held in Taranaki.

"Taranaki has long, bitter experience with the environmental, health and personal impacts from oil and gas activities including drilling, flaring and fracking. For many Māori this is seen as a continuation of colonisation," spokesperson Emily Tuhi-Ao Bailey said in a statement issued by the People's Climate Rally.

Minister of Energy and Resources Judith Collins was due to give the opening address and announce the Block Offer at 9am. 

She tweeted that the protesters preventing the kaikaranga from entering the venue, but Greenpeace and Shaun Keenan, the leader of Ngāti Te Whiti's delegation, say that's not true.

"Greenpeace has stopped Ngāti Te Whiti kaikaranga from entering the Petroleum Conference. #totally disrespectful", Ms Collins tweeted, referring to the woman who calls visitors onto a marae or venue at the beginning of a pōwhiri.

Greenpeace told Newshub Ms Collins' claim is "simply untrue".

"That's evidentally untrue. Are you offering #alternativefacts now Judith?" they tweeted.

The Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New Zealand (PEPANZ) said it is "disappointed" in the protest action, but were not surprised.

"We want to use the Conference to celebrate Taranaki's oil and gas industry and the incredible contribution it has made to the region, rather than it being targeted by protestors to cause disruption to the community," says chief executive Cameron Madgwick.

"We expect protestors to respect the rights of our delegates to attend the conference."

In a media statement sent out this morning, Ms Collins said New Zealand is well-placed to take advantage of oil and gas exploration.

"The Government will continue to ensure we reap the benefits of petroleum and mineral exploration while adhering to strong environmental and health and safety provisions," she said.

The total area up for tender is 481,735 km2 – with 5,102 km2 onshore and 476,632 km2 offshore.

PEPANZ said the climate change is a serious issue, but "we simply cannot switch off fossil fuels overnight."

Protesters did not allow Newshub to enter to building to cover the Block Offer,  forcing the crew to sneak in through another entrance.