25 Aug 2015

Far North delegation to protest at Statoil meeting

7:55 am on 25 August 2015

A Māori delegation from the Far North that travelled to Norway in May and asked its biggest oil company to ship out of New Zealand waters will be protesting outside a meeting Statoil is attending in Northland on Friday.

Executives from Statoil will be at a closed meeting at the Northland Regional Council in Whāngārei.

Mike Smith being interviewed by the Norwegian public broadcaster.

Mike Smith being interviewed by the Norwegian public broadcaster. Photo: Supplied

The leader of the Taikaha delegation, Mike Smith, of Ngāpuhi descent, said this would be one of many meetings held in the rohe to convince people that what they would be doing was environmentally friendly.

But he said he was positive members of the Te Tai Tokerau Māori Advisory committee who will be at that hui would see through it.

"Yes, I'm confident that the Māori Advisory Group will make the right decision," Mr Smith said.

"Some of the members of that group are already in opposition to what Statoil is doing.

"And we're also sending them a briefing paper that deconstructs the Statoil public relations machine, they've got a very slick PR machine which they roll out to indigenous peoples throughout the world that tries to align the values of the company with indigenous peoples.

"Our Māori values are completely juxtaposed to what oil companies are all about."

Many support opposing Statoil

Mr Smith said what Statoil was intending to do was to get local iwi on their side, but he said there was already a strong sentiment not only in Northland but around the motu amongst Māori and non-Māori that Statoil was not welcome.

"It's important for them [Statoil] to get some Māori groups in the north here, or iwi rūnanga groups to support what they're doing in terms of their plans to mine the sea floor off the western coast of Northland," he said.

"So far they haven't had too much success with that because Ngāti Kurī, Te Rārawa, Ngāti Kahu have all got official policies in place opposing deep water drilling.

"And Te Aupouri is also considering adopting that policy and I'll be meeting with that iwi's chair this Saturday about it."

The event on Friday has already garnered support from a wide range of people, from members of local hapū, various political parties, churches, students, environmental groups and even a car club - of electric vehicle owners.

One of the event organisers, NorthTec Conservation and Environmental Management student Melissa Brown, said it was imperative to stop the search for more fossil fuels and demand a future free of deep sea oil drilling.

"Statoil are the latest in a long line of exploiters turning up with beads and blankets for the natives in exchange for our country's natural resources - it's deliberate bribery" she said.

"Oil drilling and spilling in our marine environment is a totally unacceptable risk and the tip of the iceberg. It's burning fossil fuels that's causing the global crisis of Climate Change.

Mr Smith said that Statoil would try and persuade Northlanders that local jobs would be generated out of its venture, when in fact most of the work related to what the company will be doing will be based in Taranaki and overseas.

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