The Taranaki community is being warned New Zealand would not be able to handle oil spills from the deepest offshore wells ever drilled in the country's waters.
Anadarko Petroleum plans to drill at least three wells more than 1km deep in waters off Taranaki and Canterbury late next year. The wells will be beyond the 12 nautical mile exclusion zone.
A marine scientist based in Taranaki, Lyndon DeVantier, is questioning the region's ability to cope if anything goes wrong.
He says the leak of a relatively small amount of oil from the groundecd cargo ship Rena shows New Zealand would struggle with a major spill.
However Anadarko says it operates to very strict standards and places a huge emphasis on preventing accidents.