Oil Free Otago to Government: Are you serious about the climate crisis or Not?


Oil Free Otago Media Release 18 December 2019

Oil Free Otago said this morning that Jacinda Ardern’s government’s granting OMV consent to drill in the Great South Basin is a slap in the face for all who care about the climate crisis.

“Are we serious about the climate crisis or not?” asks Oil Free Otago’s Rosemary Penwarden. “If we are, then plans to drill for new oil and gas must cease immediately.

“Instead, this Government’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) just gave OMV the green light to drill for unburnable oil and gas in one of the world’s most marginal and treacherous oceans.

“That’s a slap in the face to all who care about the climate crisis and our future.”

OMV have consent to drill up to ten exploratory wells in the Great South Basin this summer, to similar depth as the Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 that exploded and devastated that part of the world. Wind speeds and ocean waves, already some of the biggest ever recorded, are incresing in the region due to climate change.

The EPA said that climate change could not be considered in their decision.

“The EPA has not kept up with reality” said Ms Penwarden. “At just over one degree of global warming predicted changes are occurring far sooner than expected. How can the EPA morally allow more climate destruction in the face of this climate crisis? Australia is burning, yet this government agency turns the other way.”

“How can Jacinda Ardern’s government come back from Madrid, touting themselves as climate leaders, and allow new deep sea drilling in our pristine southern ocean? That is hypocritical and deeply disappointing.”

“OMV and this government should know that Oil Free Otago and the people of the south will continue to oppose this unethical and illogical decision. We are building a resilient future. OMV has no place in that future.”

Fireworks over the Petroleum Conference

IMG-3676 (1)

“The adults” outside the Millenium Hotel Queenstown while Oil and Gas industry attendees inside “act like reckless fools.” Why continue to look for more oil and gas when we can’t afford to burn most of what is already discovered?

Would you let your child run onto the road in front of on-coming traffic? Or would you grab him, yell STOP, and scold him for putting himself and others in danger, like a responsible adult would?

Or would you politely ask him to consider staying off the road? Or just stand there, hoping that bloody great truck will swerve out of his way?

The oil and gas industry is far from being an innocent child but is behaving just as recklessly. And that bloody great truck? It’s heading for us all. The climate crisis is coming at us like a Kenworth T909 with failing brakes while oil companies act like reckless fools, drilling for more oil and gas, oblivious to the consequences. Are their heads that far underground that they can’t see what they’ve done to the atmosphere?

Last week PEPANZ (Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of NZ) and NZPAM (NZ Petroleum and Minerals), part of our government’s Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, hosted the 2019 NZ Petroleum Conference at the Millenium Hotel, Queenstown. The two day conference showcased international companies’ latest technology like Houston-based Oceaneering’s E-ROV and Schlumberger’s Full-waveform Inversion imaging equipment. It’s also where MBIE announced that almost all the remaining un-permitted land in Taranaki is up for drilling and fracking.

Why Queenstown? Because the Petroleum Conference was chased away from Auckland, Wellington and New Plymouth in recent years by a large number of adults loudly yelling STOP to the reckless kids inside, forcing PEPANZ to hide in Queenstown and keep this year’s conference a secret.

But we adults from Oil Free Otago, Extinction Rebellion Queenstown-Lakes and Environmental Justice Otepoti among others, found them and dropped everything to travel to Queenstown (some by bicycle via the Central Otago rail trail) to again yell STOP to these reckless fools.

We’ve given up asking nicely. Exxon and others – including Austrian oil giant OMV, due to drill in the Great South Basin off Dunedin this summer – have known about climate change for more than thirty years and used that time to fund misinformation campaigns discrediting climate science.

Our message was loud and clear: we won’t stand by while you continue to endanger our future. So loud in fact, that conference delegates, required by PEPANZ to stay in-house for the duration of the conference for their “safety and security”, had two interrupted nights’ sleep and noisy colourful protestors outside their conference by day. Who said you can’t have a little fun delivering your deadly serious message? That’s where the fireworks came in. On the final night of the conference around two in the morning, just after a couple of wobbly-legged female delegates spilled out of their taxi and found their way to their beds, just as a car alarm started up somewhere very close by, an 8-Shot Roman Candle lit up the Queenstown sky.

Jacinda’s response to Extinction Rebellion’s disruption in Wellington on 7 October was,  sure, protest is fine but let’s not interrupt people going about their normal business.

I’m thrilled that she sees climate change as her generation’s nuclear free moment and has banned new offshore drilling permits. But I’m worried that part of her government, NZPAM, still don’t see that bloody great truck.

Rosemary Penwarden – climate activist, mother and grandmother (This article first appeared in the Whanganui Chronicle behind a paywall)

Climate criminals OMV one consent closer to drilling

The Government calls climate change our generations ‘nuclear-free moment’. Councils across the country have declared a ‘climate emergency’. Thousands of students dare to protest for the right to a future.

Yet on Wednesday, the Government’s so-called ‘Environmental Protection Authority’ granted Austrian oil giant OMV their only publicly-notified consent they need to drill off the coast of Dunedin. OMV is the definition of what we call a ‘climate criminal’ – one of the biggest oil giants in the world, now planning to expand oil and gas drilling into some of New Zealand’s most wild and pristine seas, close to the breeding and foraging ground of southern right and humpback whales, bottlenose dolphins and rare New Zealand sea lions.

Yet somehow, the EPA have just gotten OMV one consent closer to drilling off our coast – a decision made after ‘considering’ desperate pleas from 215 submitters, and over six thousand signatories demanding the consent application be declined.

The hearing itself was farcical. Submitters were barred from speaking about Te Tiriti O Waitangi, the founding document of our nation, and barred also from mentioning climate change, the biggest threat to this nation. The only expert on marine ecology was dismissed and told her evidence was ‘irrelevant’. Media were barred from recording the hearing and made to feel unwelcome by glaring security guards. Submitters were ridiculed, patronised, and sent out of the hearing in floods of tears.

All of this is so incredible it would be laughable if it wasn’t threatening our very existence. The blame doesn’t simply rest with the EPA – they operate within the boundaries of a piece of legislation (the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012), which, like the Resource Management Act, includes clauses which explicitly bar climate change from consideration. Yep – you read that right – the laws intended to protect our environment actually prevent decisionmakers from thinking about climate change. The Government’s planned reforms of this legislation isn’t due to be completed for years – yet these particular clauses could be repealed in the blink of an eye. Dozens of environmental and human rights groups – along with Local Government New Zealand – have just sent the Minister for the Environment David Parker an open letter, urging him to repeal these ridiculous clauses barring authorities from considering climate change.

There is real ambition from the public and from organisations and unions of every kind, but they’ve been dismissed as radical, deemed not politically possible. But long-term thinking is not radical. What’s radical is to alter the planet’s climate, betray the future of my generation, and condemn millions to death by climate change. What’s radical, is following the bidding of a few recalcitrant industries while tens of thousands of students protest outside Parliament’s door. What’s radical, is to write off the fact that change is within our reach.

Politicians have been arguing about climate change all of my life. But throughout those 7,406 days, they’ve failed to peak our emissions, failed to adapt to the impacts of climate change, and failed to provide meaningful climate finance to the Pacific.

This is why we don’t expect Minister Parker, or any politician for that matter, to take meaningful action on these issues. We’re not here to beg them to change the law or tell big oil they’re not welcome in Aotearoa – because we know that they will do neither of these things. The time for begging is over, and the time for change has come. Next Friday, that change will look like dozens of thousands of Kiwis marching on Parliament – not begging for a future, or even demanding one, but telling politicians that their time has expired – and our time has come.



After a long battle, oil giant OMV have been granted the only publicly-notified consent they need to drill off our local Dunedin’s coastline.

Petroleum Conference unearthed!

Another world is possible1

School students at last year’s Petroleum Conference in Wellington shouting “We are unstoppable. Another world is possible!”

It’s at the Millenium Hotel Queenstown Sunday 29 Sept – Tuesday 1 Oct

Despite the ban on new deep sea oil permits, school student climate strikes, heatwaves, droughts, cyclones and fires from the Amazon to the arctic, the oil industry is planning to keep destroying the world for short term profit.

They tried to keep this year’s conference a secret, but we tracked them down.

Come and join us to remind them: Business As Usual is over

All welcome, please help… it’s our future!!!

Join the “Stop The Petroleum Conference (forever)” https://www.facebook.com/events/2403544013034491/

or email earthprotectorsrising@protonmail.com

We are a small group of volunteers prepared to put our bodies in the way to stop this industry, for the sake of all our futures. If you are able, we are grateful for any donation, no matter how small

Oil Free Otago

Kiwibank 38-9015-0104292-00

Thank you!


OMV Stay Away


“Stay Away from the  Great South Basin (GSB)” was the message loud and clear from Oil Free Otago at St Clair beach today (Saturday 18 May).  

OMV is planning an exploratory drill in permit PEP50119 in deep water about 150 km from Dunedin as early as this summer.The Austrian oil giant purchased Shell’s remaining assets there last year for $790 million.

“Today all over the world people like us remember the Deepwater Horizon oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico by joining hands across the sand. OMV’s planned drill is exploratory and in deep water, just like the Deepwater Horizon was. But OMV’s planned drill is in more treacherous marginal conditions. Help is nowhere near. OMV can never exclude the risk of a catastrophic oil spill or gas blowout” said Oil Free Otago’s Rosemary Penwarden.

“Our bodies form a symbolic line in the sand to say No More to fossil fuel exploration in our oceans.”

A letter to OMV was signed at the event and Oil Free Otago is gathering a ready response team of people to oppose OMV at short notice.

“We are building up a team to oppose OMV with harbour blockades and the like. We are serious about protecting our southern ocean, our way of life and our children’s future. OMV has no place here.”

Here’s our letter:

18 May 2019

Alan Clare

Exploration and Appraisal Manager,

OMV New Zealand

The Magestic Centre

100 Willis St

Wellington 6011

We, the undersigned, demand that OMV surrender their Great South Basin permit PEP 50119 immediately.

We, the people of Dunedin, Otago, have again gathered to oppose your company OMV’s intention to drill for oil and gas in our southern ocean.

We have written to you before but you are not listening. As we have already told you, New Zealanders have a strong history of resistance wherever we see injustice. The biggest injustice facing us today is the breakdown of our climate system. 

Since we last wrote cities around the world have declared a climate emergency, including Christchurch and Nelson in Aotearoa NZ. School children have walked out of school in their thousands to demand a liveable future. Average atmospheric CO2 concentrations at Mauna Loa observatory have reached 415ppm. This January the US Midwest froze while Australia burned, while five months earlier 11 massive wildfires raged within the arctic circle.  

The Great South Basin is marginal, dangerous and infinitely precious to us. We cannot burn most of the already discovered oil and gas to stay within a survivable limit of global warming. As each day passes your intention to drill for more unburnable oil and gas becomes more untenable. It is madness. It is both unjust and immoral. We will resist you every step of the way.

We humans face the future together. Your children as well as ours will suffer from continuing burning of fossil fuels, keeping your heads in the sand and continuing with Business as Usual. Your industry belongs in the past. Why not, instead of wasting more money on exploring for a stranded asset in an inhospitable ocean, help us all by investing in a fairer, non carbon energy future?

Yours sincerely

Oil Free Otago 

Drilling protest/celebration is just the beginning

DCC protest turns celebration

1 May 2019

We Made Them Cake!

What a great turnout on Monday at our OMV Unwelcome rally. OMV were planning to present their upcoming plans to drill in the Great South Basin in a closed meeting with Dunedin City and Otago Regional Councillors. But some of the Councillors said they would not go.

As a thank you to them, for standing alongside us and speaking up against OMV, we baked them a cake! ♥

Here’s what the Councillors said


  • Cr Deaker said he wanted to do “nothing to support or encourage any fossil fuel industry, in Otago or anywhere”. I want a wonderful future for our grandchildren and they won’t have that unless climate change is stopped.”
  • Cr Scott said he preferred to ”establish plans for the future, not the past.”
  • Cr Laws said he never makes “450km round trips to suit the interests of public relations promoters when they could just email their propaganda like most paid lobbyists do.”
  • Cr Ella Lawton said she would be going, to be informed, but was ”adamantly against” the plans.


  •  Cr Hawkins said he saw ”little value” in the briefing, as there was ”nothing they could say to convince me that the environmental and economic aspirations of our community are well served by more deep-sea drilling”.
  • Cr Damien Newell, said ”if I go, it will be in protest. The science is in – there’s nothing they can tell us. He said he was ”absolutely philosophically opposed to the offshore drilling”, which was just ”wilful and wanton damage for our environment and our planet. It’s just madness.”
  • Crs Garey and Jim O’Malley would attend, despite their opposition to drilling, to hear from the company, ask questions and express their concerns and those of the community. Cr O’Malley said ”If I don’t like the answer, I’m going to leave immediately.”

Mayor Cull is in China but last week wrote to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to reiterate the DCC was ”strongly opposed” to offshore drilling.

It’s a strange and wonderful thing to have elected councillors actually reflecting the will of so many of us, and speaking out. This is a far cry from the Anadarko days in 2013-14, when it seemed almost no one in power could see past the company spin.

Even so, we have the fight of our lives coming up, friends, against one of the biggest and most powerful companies in the world. OMV is one of 100 companies responsible for 70% of the world’s emissions.

Last week Dunedin was hailed as having the biggest uptake of private electric cars per capita in NZ; all those emissions savings mean nothing if we allow this company to drill off our coast.

We think OMV need to know about the proud history of peaceful civil disobedience in Aotearoa and we hope you will join us to teach them. When we see injustice, we act. Drilling for unburnable oil and gas is unjust and in Cr Newell’s words, just madness.

As summer approaches we hope to decorate Dunedin with a very clear message:

OMV: Keep Out of the Great South Basin

Please email oilfreeotago@gmail.com if you can help in any way. If you would like to donate to the campaign to kick OMV OUT of the GSB, please make a regular donation if you can. No matter how small,  a regular donation will help us build up people power to stop OMV in their tracks.



New to activism? Here’s a tip: if you’re a parent, you have exactly what it takes to become a climate activist: patience, endurance, dogged determination, good deduction skills and the ability to keep one step ahead of your opponent! Humour! If you’re not a parent then you’ve been a kid and will have all of those skills too, plus a youthful energy that can never be underestimated. ♥

Also coming up:

Friday 10 May 7pm – Film: Reluctant Radical at Knox Church 449 George St, Dunedin

Saturday 11 May 10am – Go Fossil Free Bank Challenge at the Dunedin Railway Station

Saturday 18 May 9:30am – Hands Across the Sand at St Clair Esplanade

Let’s end with the words of Mayor Cull in 2017: “The world is waking up. We can’t identify benefits of exploring for oil off our coast. We don’t have any kind of right to trade in our grandkids’ futures for a few pieces of silver now.”


OMV: Expect Resistance


Otago community leaders Torea Scott Fyffe, Waiariki Parata-Taiapa, Niamh O’Flynn, Peter Matheson, Bob Lloyd and Brendan Flack stand aboard the sailing vessell Tiama in front of the drill ship the Noble Bob Douglas in 2014. Photo by Nick Tapp – nicktappvideo.com

Austrian oil giant OMV last week (10 April 2019) announced plans to drill for oil and gas in the Great South Basin (GSB) as early as this year. OMV took over Shell’s GSB drilling permit and last year were given extra time by this government to decide whether or not to proceed with deep water exploratory drilling in the southern ocean.

Last week, on the one year anniversary of the Ardern government’s ban on new offshore oil and gas permits, they signalled they will go ahead.

“OMV’s decision blatantly disregards Jacinda Ardern’s call for climate change to be her generation’s nuclear free moment. It is a slap in the face to the millions of young people around the world striking for urgent action on climate change, including more than a thousand school students here in Dunedin.” Oil Free Otago’s Rosemary Penwarden said.

“OMV may not yet understand how much we care about our ocean, our sea creatures and birds, and our southern way of life. They may not know the proud history of peaceful civil disobedience in Aotearoa NZ. They may not know that our city’s leaders have opposed deep sea drilling, divested our ratepayers’ money from fossil fuel investments and are already on the way to a fossil free future.

“One year ago, we wrote to OMV and told them not to come. They need reminding.”

Last year’s IPCC report makes it clear. The world’s economies must massively and swiftly reduce our use of coal, oil and gas to prevent the worst effects of climate change. Most of the fossil fuels already found cannot be burned if we are to have a hope of preserving a liveable climate.

“And yet OMV plan to explore for more unburnable oil and gas for short term profit at the expense of all of our futures. That is inexcusable.” Ms Penwarden said.

“OMV is one of 100 oil giants responsible for 71% of global emissions. Instead of looking for more unburnable oil and gas OMV and the others should be putting their billions into renewable energy and infrastructure projects needed in the face of climate disruption, rising oceans and more ferocious storms, floods and droughts. They should put their money where the future is.

“OMV should surrender their drilling permits and leave Aotearoa. If they continue they should expect resistance every step of the way.”


Join the resistance! email us at oilfreeotago@gmail.com

Find Oil Free Otago on facebook

Kayaktivism at Port – Saturday 13 October meet at back beach 12 midday

OFO ready response practice run 12 January 2014

Do you have a kayak, surf board, small boat, paddle board?

Or are you a landlubber who wants to stop deep sea drilling in our southern ocean?

The Rainbow Warrior is coming to Port Chalmers

Join us on land and water to greet the Rainbow Warrior and send a message to

OMV (Austrian oil giant): No Drilling Here!

The government stopped new oil and gas permits (except for 3 years in Taranaki) – hooray Aotearoa! Great step forward, and the Rainbow Warrior is here to help send a message of hope to the world. But our work is not done. OMV still has an existing permit to drill for oil and gas in our Southern Ocean. We can’t afford to burn most of what is already discovered if we want a liveable future for our kids. We will resist these companies every step of the way.

On land: showcase the fossil free city we are building – OMV: we don’t need you!

At sea: Resist! #endoil #makeoilhistory – OMV: we don’t want you!

More to come! Want to help? Email oilfreeotago@gmail.com

sign up to OFO fb page https://www.facebook.com/OilFreeOtago/

Or ring Rosemary on 0221856966

Hands Across the Sand 2018

St Clair Esplanade
11am Saturday 19 May

We are winning – but it’s not quite over!


This year, PM Jacinda Ardern’s government put their money where their mouth is and banned future oil and gas permits. A great start, but it’s not enough. Current permits in our southern ocean have not been banned, and two major oil companies, NZ Oil & Gas and OMV (which bought Shell’s permit this year) are still considering drilling in the Canterbury and Great South Basins this summer.

Scientists tell us we can’t burn most of the coal, oil and gas already discovered and keep below two degrees of global warming. We know that if we are to win this race against time to protect a liveable future, we cannot afford to explore for any more new oil and gas.

It’s time for the oil companies to get this too. If the government isn’t going to stop them, we will.

Please join us as we peacefully draw our human line in the sand to say NO to more oil and gas drilling and YES to a clean renewable energy future.

See you there!
Oil Free Otago crew

PS: “Hands Across the Sand” began in 2010 after the Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon disaster and quickly grew into the biggest protest against offshore oil and gas drilling in the world, with over 40 countries participating. Oil Free Otago have joined this event since 2012 when we first began opposing deep sea drilling in our precious Southern Ocean. Let’s kick it to touch this time!

Like Oil Free Otago on Facebook.
Email us to join the fight to #endoil – oilfreeotago@gmail.com

Today we Celebrate!


Otago community leaders Torea Scott Fyffe, Waiariki Parata-Taiapa, Niamh O’Flynn, Peter Matheson, Bob Lloyd and Brendan Flack stand aboard the sailing vessel Tiama in front of the drill ship the Noble Bob Douglas off Taiaroa Head in Feb 2014.  Photo by Nick Tapp – nicktappvideo.com

12 April 2018 – Great Work Prime Minister – but don’t stop there…

Oil Free Otago congratulates the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Government for ending new offshore oil and gas exploration in Aotearoa NZ, and calls for them to go a step further and ban current permits for new oil or gas exploration, including the Barque Prospect off Oamaru.
“Today’s announcement is a wonderful, historic step forward for all of us, young and old. We would like to thank all our supporters over the years who have put enormous effort into opposing Anadarko, NZ Oil & Gas (NZOG), Shell, Beach Energy, OMV and others. This is your day.” Oil Free Otago’s Rosemary Penwarden said.
“Really, it is everyone’s day, because it is a win for the planet, home to us all, a win for the albatross, Oil Free Otago’s adopted logo, and a win for all the sea creatures we have worked for many years to protect from oil and gas drilling.”
The government today announced that onshore oil and gas exploration will continue in the Taranaki region and that current permits elsewhere will not be stopped. That means that exploratory drilling in NZOG’s Barque Prospect off Oamaru and in OMV’s prospect in the Great South Basin, recently purchased from Shell, may still go ahead this coming summer.
NZOG (recently purchased by Singapore-based O.G.Oil & Gas, so not a NZ company) are struggling to find an investor for the  Barque Prospect which they describe as a “game-changer” for the region, emphasising any find is likely to be gas, the so-called “clean” fossil fuel.
“What the industry fail to mention about natural gas are the fugitive emissions or methane leakage that comes from every new oil or gas well.”
Natural gas is mostly methane before it is burned, a very potent greenhouse gas – calculated to be around 86 times more potent than CO2 over a 20 year period. Recent research from Harvard shows that methane leakage from gas production and delivery in the US rose by up to 30% in the 12 years up to 2014. Many studies besides the Harvard one find that even a very small amount of methane leakage from gas wells and transport systems can have a large climate impact — enough to cancel out any emissions advantage gas may have over coal.
“So the timing is all wrong for gas” Ms Penwarden explains. “For a start, it’s too late. It takes up to a decade or more for a new discovery to reach the commercial stage, then the well could produce for many decades, long past the time by which we need to have reached a zero emissions economy. Second, the South Island has no infrastructure for gas. Why would our government and regional councils spend millions now on new gas infrastructure that will be obsolete before it even gets used?
“Third, why invest in drilling for and using new gas when we could be using that money now on renewable technologies?
“Fourth and most important: climate change is here now. We don’t know for sure if we’ve reached a tipping point that will lead to unstoppable climate breakdown, but for NZOG to drill for new gas now is reckless if not criminal.
“If the government is not going to stop NZOG and OMV then we, the people, will. Today we celebrate a historic win. Tomorrow we continue the fight. Let’s hope these companies read the writing on the wall, pack up now and go home. We have an exciting new clean energy economy to build.”