The truth about drilling

A welcome reality check from the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association CEO at Stuff:

It seems as if opposition to the industry wants Kiwis to believe they can either have a country with a clean-green image or one that supports hydrocarbon exploration. But we don’t need to choose. We can have both.

We can have both, and in fact do have both.

To say oil and gas exploration is 100 per cent risk-free would be untrue. Like many other industries we cannot responsibly provide foolproof guarantees.

What we can do is work hard to ensure we have best-practice models, that we eliminate risks at every turn and implement the best technologies to ensure wells have little environmental impact and are as safe as possible from the risk of incident. We are more concerned about constructing a steel reinforced fence at the top of the cliff rather than providing an ambulance at the bottom.

New Zealanders travel on planes every day. The pilots and mechanics triple check the engines; ground staff prepare each plane for flight over and over again. But there are no 100 per cent guarantees the flight will proceed without incident. We see some horrific stories about plane crashes. But because the odds of a plane crash are so small, we continue to board planes every day to get from A to B.

When lobby groups and politicians call for something not to occur unless it is guaranteed to be absolutely safe, then they are really calling for it to be banned because they don’t like it. There is no industry or activity that can ever be totally safe.

For decades the industry in New Zealand has run largely unnoticed. There have been no major incidents and the last death was in 1996. Few industries can claim such a record. Block offers have passed us all by without a hikoi in sight, and hydraulic fracturing has been carried out for 20 years without a single incident.

20 years, yet some are calling for it to be banned.

The oil and gas industry is no Johnny-come-lately. It has been a part of the economy for more than 100 years, is the country’s fourth largest exporter and provides 7000 well-paid jobs nationwide.

I wonder how many people would be without a job in a New Zealand with no mining and no drilling? A lot.

In Taranaki we have become part of the community. And the benefits of successful finds can be seen throughout the region.

Don’t just take my word for it, go and visit Taranaki. Go down to the local pub or club, find some of the industry workers and chat to them about the oil and gas industry; about the jobs they and many of their family have; about the swimming pool sponsored by Todd Energy; or this year’s children’s book festival sponsored by Origin.

It is very easy for people in Auckland and Wellington to demand an end to certain industries, because they are not large employers in cities. But go out to Taranaki or the West Coast, and you’ll see how important they are to regional economies.

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