27 Aug 2015

Govt want in on Statoil meeting

10:34 am on 27 August 2015

A Northland regional councillor who has arranged for representatives of local hapu, the council and the oil company Statoil to meet says central Government officials now want a seat at the table.

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Photo: 123RF

The Norwegian company has a 15-year licence to explore the Reinga basin off Northland, and will meet representatives of the regional council and 22 hapu tomorrow to discuss its plans.

Dover Samuels, who heads the council's Maori advisory committee, says the Government officials will be allowed to attend.

"They quite frankly, was not part of the invitation. But I guess they can contribute to the discussions and the conversation which should have taken place, not with just the NRC but I would envisage with all the other local authorities that have got exploratory activities happening in their area."

Energy Minister Simon Bridges has rejected the idea his officials were rushing up at the last minute.

A spokesman for Statoil said it was doing the right thing by talking to individual iwi, and Statoil had been keeping iwi informed continuously about what it was doing.

Bryn Klove said the company had been following the normal process of meeting with iwi chairpeople.

"We feel it's correct to engage with the elected iwi chairperson. That's how the protocol should be, based on the UN indigenous people protocols."

'Secret meetings'

But Greenpeace campaigner Mike Smith said Statoil was mounting a divide-and-conquer campaign.

The anti-drilling group said oil company representatives had been holding secret meetings with Maori, and were spotted at a Wellington cafe with a Northland iwi leader.

Mr Smith said they had also approached another Maori leader with talk of financial support for community projects in the North.

He said meeting secretly with representatives of individual iwi or hapu was not consultation.

However, Te Rarawa chief Haami Piripi said Statoil had been keen to talk to as many Maori groups as possible and it had been open and informative about its plans and processes.

Mr Piripi said many people were fearful of the consequences of deep-sea oil drilling, and Maori needed to be as well-informed about it as possible, should Statoil decide to drill in five years' time.

Mr Piripi said there was nothing sinister in Statoil's offer to promote science in Far North schools, because it did this all over the world, and there were far too few Maori scientists.

Greenpeace also said New Zealand was ill-prepared for an oil spill and had just three small boats available to respond to one.

Mr Samuels said issues such as spills were likely to be raised, and it was a good opportunity to hear from Statoil.

Mr Bridges said oil companies had their own emergency boats for dealing with spills.

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