Fireworks over the Petroleum Conference

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“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)

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