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planned reforms of this legislation isn’t due to be completed for years – yet these particular clauses could be repealed in the blink of an eye.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.