Outrage over Austrian oil giant OMV's New Zealand drilling plans

Greenpeace and the Green Party have condemned Austrian oil giant OMV after it announced plans to drill for oil and gas off the coast of Otago.

OMV New Zealand, a subsidiary of Austria's OMV Aktiengesellschaft, applied earlier this year for consent to bring a drilling rig into its Great South Basin permit, and the application has now been made public.

The oil giant - having purchased Shell's remaining interests in New Zealand for $790 million last year - applied to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in February for marine discharge consent so it can release contaminants into the sea.

The public now have 30 days to make a submission on the application. Once that period ends, all the information relating to the application will be available on the EPA's website. 

The EPA said the application was for "a publicly notified marine discharge consent to discharge harmful substances from the deck drains of one or more Mobile Offshore Drilling Units in the Great South Basin, offshore Otago."

Greenpeace has labelled the move "disgraceful" as it comes on the eve of the first anniversary of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announcing a ban on further oil and gas exploration permits in New Zealand.

Outrage over Austrian oil giant OMV's New Zealand drilling plans
Photo credit: Greenpeace

Ardern said in April last year the Government would no longer issue new permits for offshore oil and gas exploration, but existing permits would be honoured.

"To shamelessly announce new deep sea oil drilling plans right now is disgraceful," Greenpeace climate campaigner Amanda Larsson said on Wednesday, adding that OMV is "flipping a big middle finger to Jacinda Ardern".

Green Party Energy & Resources spokesperson Gareth Hughes said OMV's consent application announced on Wednesday for oil drilling "shows that last year's ban on new permits needs to be strengthened".

He said there are currently 28 active mining or prospecting permits which "could be used until the oil runs out if [Energy] Minister [Megan] Woods agrees to extend them".

"I'm urging Minister Woods to call MBIE in and take action to stop the extension of existing permits," he said.

"This Government has banned new offshore drilling permit applications, and now we need to close this loophole to stop further applications for deep sea oil drilling long into the future."

New Zealand Oil & Gas has also been granted a three-year extension on its drilling programme in the Barque prospect of the Canterbury Basin.

"OMV is currently drilling for oil in the pristine Arctic and is on the list of 100 companies that have caused more than 70 percent of the world's climate emissions - this company has a lot to answer for," Larsson said. 

OMV did not responded to Newshub's request for comment but said in a statement to Business Desk: "Plans and timing cannot be confirmed until Otago and Southland community stakeholders have been consulted, and the EPA approvals process has been completed."

Outrage over Austrian oil giant OMV's New Zealand drilling plans
Photo credit: OMV

It's understood the company will be looking for gas deposits in the area, where there is a likelihood of finding oil suitable for aviation fuel.

OMV has a 16,715 square-kilometre permit, extended by the Government last year, which expires in July 2022. The extension was granted in October by the Ministry for Business, Employment and Innovation (MBIE).

Energy Minister Megan Woods was not available for comment as she is currently in Berlin but explained early last year, the extension was granted under existing rules inherited from the previous government.

She said extending it was the "only decision available under the current policy settings".

Under the Government's new rules, once a permit is surrendered, it will not be reissued. OMV must commit to drill in the area by July 2021, or relinquish the permit.

MBIE data showed last year that ending new oil and gas exploration permits could cost the Government nearly $8 billion in lost tax over 23 years.

Newshub.

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