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New Zealand, perhaps more famously known as Middle Earth from the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films, is famous for its untouched scenic vistas, the pristine, rolling landscapes, green hills, glaciers, volcanoes, and beautiful beaches. But all of this is now at risk as the country rushes to develop its hydrocarbon resources.
As the demand for energy increases around the world, countries are racing to extract all available reserves of oil and gas possible, hungry for the precious revenues on offer. Ecuador, ready to allow oil exploration in a national reserve in the Amazon rainforest, is another example of a country in pursuit of economic success despite the social and environmental costs.
New Zealand, in the quest to diversify from the traditional agricultural exports, has opened up its land and sea for oil and gas drilling and seabed mining.
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Cindy Baxter, a New Zealand environmental activist, said that “basically the government seems to think that the economic future of New Zealand has to rely on digging up fossil fuels and mining. Anything they can open up and prospect, they will.”
Nathan Argent, the Policy Advisor for Greenpeace in New Zealand, stated that “the government has invested a lot of political capital to make it as easy as possible for oil companies to come and drill here. This includes really low royalties, low taxes and a permissive regulatory framework that in some places has taken away the public’s right to object to drilling.”
Argent explained that New Zealand has had a green reputation that was originally created after the sinking of the Greenpeace ship, the Rainbow Warrior. The ship was moored in Auckland and preparing to protest against French nuclear protests when it was sabotaged and sunk. In response the New Zealand government sent its own ship to protest the nuclear tests, with Cabinet Ministers aboard.
Argent said that “30 years later it’s hard to overstate the importance of our clean reputation, because 70 percent of our exports are traded off that basis and half the jobs in New Zealand rely on it. We’re a nation of protesters, so these law changes were a step too far for many people.”
New Zealand`s stunning vistas are threatened by oil and natural gas exploration.
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Argent complains that the government is keen on developing its oil and gas resources due mostly to laziness. He claims that “if all the government has to do it divvy up parts of the ocean, give permits and change a law here and there, then they don’t have to think outside the box. But if you critique what the government is actually doing as far as creating jobs and bringing about economic development, it’s really very little. At the moment the best they’ve got is oil, gas, and subsidies for the dairy sector, which is also having a rather negative impact on our environment.”
Middle Earth could quite easily turn from a place of idyllic hobbit settlements, to disturbing landscapes more akin to Mordor.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com