Texan oil giant, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, left empty handed in 2014 but now Austrian giant OMV have announced they will drill in the Great South Basin as early as this year (2019).

Deep Sea Drilling is of major concern in the Otago region of New Zealand because of the alarming environmental and economic risks that it poses to our people, our climate, and our land and sea.

Oil Free Otago – What do we stand for?

Oil Free Otago is a group of Otago residents who aim to protect our oceans and climate by preventing Deep Sea Drilling and further oil exploration off our coasts through nonviolent, community-led action.
OFO want to help build a positive future for Dunedin, Otago and Aotearoa. We are against deep sea drilling for oil and gas off our coast because:

  1. Climate Breakdown. Burning oil and gas produces carbon dioxide that causes global warming and climate breakdown. The IPCC (United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report released last year warned that we have only 12 years left to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees C. After that, even the half a degree warmer agreed to in Paris in December 2015 will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. This call for urgent and unprecedented change comes from a conservative group of the world’s most knowledgeable climate scientists.
  2. The risk of an accident – an oil spill or gas blowout – can’t be ruled out when fossil fuel companies drill in deep and dangerous oceans like the Great South Basins where OMV are planning three exploration and seven follow-up appraisal wells. Our kai moana, our fishing and tourist industries and our Kiwi beach lifestyle could be destroyed. Non-human creatures would be affected too, including the world’s rarest sea lion, the rare Hector’s dolphin, the southern right whale which is just beginning to return closer to shore since whaling ended many years ago. Seabirds would also be affected. While three species of albatross breed in the northern hemisphere, almost 20 breed in our southern ocean. We really are the sea bird capital of the world. We have a lot to lose.


There’s another important skill needed. In order to change things we have to get brave, and be prepared to take peaceful action to stand up for the future. History is crammed full of great examples of peaceful direct action:

Parihaka, a Maori pa on the edge of Mt Taranaki was a rallying point in opposition to the massive land confiscations and poor treatment of local Maori in the 1800s. Under the leadership of Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi, Parihaka had a deliberate policy of peaceful and unarmed resistance. Some of the things they did were to rip out survey pegs and sit peacefully in the way to stop or slow down the land confiscation. It is said that Parihaka served as an early example for Ghandi to follow.

Ghandi led thousands of Indian people to the sea to make salt from sea water. It was his way of saying to the British, who ruled India, “We don’t need your salt, we can make it ourselves, so you can’t control us anymore.” That symbolic march helped India gain their independence from Britain. But you don’t even need thousands of people.

Rosa Parks was a black woman from the United States. She sat at the front of a bus and refused to move to the back where black people were supposed to sit according to the unjust laws at that time. That action helped spark the black civil rights movement in the 1960s in the United States.

We believe in fun and creative people power. In Oil Free Otago’s short history we’ve held film evenings, painted signs and banners, printed t-shirts, swam at St Clair on the shortest day, gotten all “oily” in a shop window and handed out pamphlets, held stalls, and heaps of other stuff, showing others that we think deep sea drilling off Dunedin is a bad idea.

We will be stepping up again this year in 2019, including holding nvda (nonviolent, or peaceful direct action) training sessions, more banner painting, t-shirt printing (“OMV: EXPECT RESISTANCE”) and more inspiring film evenings – watch out for this year’s highlight The Reluctant Radical – exclusive, one night only – 7pm 10 May Knox Church Stuart Hall.

If enough people stand up and say no to bad ideas and yes to a positive future, we all win.


  1. When was the last Oil Well spill in NZ? NZ has had over 1000 wells drilled, 197 of them off shore, NZ was the first country in the Commonwealth to drill for oil, and one of the first in the world, since 1865. Have I missed something about NZ oil spills? I will appreciate your reply.

    1. Hi Bill,

      Thanks for your question.
      Oil Free Otago is actually campaigning on deep sea drilling in Aotearoa, which is quite different, from the offshore (shallow water) drilling that has been happening in NZ for many years, and has much higher levels of risk. The first deep sea drill to take place in New Zealand happened in December 2013, 110 nautical miles off the coast of Raglan. The second one is due off the coast of Otago in February.

      Some good info regarding deep sea drilling can be found here:

      Click to access Greenpeace%20Deep%20Sea%20Oil%20Briefing.pdf


      Of most concern to me, leaving oil spills out of the picture, are the climate change impacts associated with expanding our fossil fuel exploration to the very edges of the Earth (and technology), at a time when science is very clearly telling us that we must stop.

      I hope this is useful to you.

      Kind Regards,

      Niamh O’Flynn
      for Oil Free Otago

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