All of New Zealand has been watching the environmental disaster unfolding in the Bay of Plenty. As I write, the broken container ship Rena still sits precariously on the Astrolabe reef and bad weather is closing in. The ship holds 1700 tonnes of fuel oil and innumerable containers. Already 300 tonnes of oil has leaked into our environment and a meagre 90 tonnes has been safely pumped out of its tanks.
Here on the beautiful Kapiti coast some are asking, could the Kapiti coast fall victim to an oil disaster? Sadly, the answer is yes.
In November last year an oil spill in Taranaki led to oil washing up on our beaches here in Kapiti. A year ago I raised concerns about prioritising short term economic gains at the expense of the environment. I pointed out that the environment is the basis of our core economy as well as our lifestyle.
This week an oil exploration ship arrived in Taranaki to start exploring for oil off Raglan for US oil giant, Anadarko. Anadarko was a part owner of the deepwater Horizon well which leaked 780 million litres into the Gulf of Mexico.
Since 1992 New Zealand has allowed uncontrolled entry to ships, like the Rena, that do not meet safety standards in their country of origin. Letting unsafe, “unwarranted” ships with thousands of tonnes of oil on board into our harbours is irresponsible.
One of the reasons the Green Party is here is to help ensure that the Government does everything it can to protect our beautiful country. This is about much more than politics.
We are doing everything we can on the ground in Tauranga to help out with the clean-up. Local Greens will be out in force helping to look after the coastline and our MPs will be up there to provide support where they can.
The Greens would stop deep sea oil drilling and exploration. The Rena disaster shows that we don’t have the capacity to deal with potentially massive and catastrophic deep sea oil spills. There needs to be higher standards for coastal shipping that supports the use of local crews and ships that know New Zealand waters and hazards. New Zealand needs to invest in our emergency maritime service so that they have the capacity and resources to respond quickly if accidents do happen. We also need a stronger legal framework, so that when accidents do happen the corporations responsible are financially liable for their mistakes. New Zealanders should not have to bail out corporations for damaging our beautiful country. There needs to be better enforcement of marine regulations by Maritime NZ to make them effective in protecting our marine environment and there needs to be an independent inquiry into the speed of the Government response, maritime regulations and the capacity of out maritime services to respond to accidents.
The solutions we need to prevent our beautiful Kapiti coast falling foul of an oil spill are known, all we need now is the will to make them happen