Hooton on Greenpeace

Matthew Hooton writes in NBR:

They were there, they said, for everyone.

This week, chief executive Bunny McDiarmid led a self-described flotilla to try to stop Texas-based company Anadarko from exploring for oil off the West Coast of the North Island. The effort, according to Ms McDiarmid, was “in defence of our oceans, future generations, our climate and our coastline.”

Her sidekick, former Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, went further, claiming to speak for all living creatures.

Both insist Anadarko is not welcome in our waters. …

In my life, I have swum in the ocean, sailed Lasers, gone snorkelling, caught the odd fish, water-skied, built sand-castles and strolled along Piha at sunset. The New Zealand coastline and ocean are as much mine as Ms McDiarmid’s. So too “the climate.” I also have just as much interest as her in “future generations.” Indeed, when I speak of these things, I do so without ambiguity or conflict.

In contrast, Ms McDiarmid speaks as a paid employee of a multinational empire with assets of $350 million and annual revenues of $435 million, of which about $110 million is paid to head office in Amsterdam.

The New Zealand franchise raises around $8.5 million a year, of which $2.5 million is spent on further fund-raising and another $2 million is paid to Amsterdam, including for the rights to use the Greenpeace brand. It is a similar setup to an oil company or fast-food chain.

Greenpeace is indeed a multinational brand.

Speaking, therefore, without the same financial interest in the matter as Ms McDiarmid, I say Anardako is welcome in my country, including along my coastline and out in my oceans. I hope they find oil, and lots of it, and I hope others do too.

Speaking on behalf of future generations, I then hope Energy Minister Simon Bridges gets on a plane to Norway before too long and learns what a successful oil industry and associated investment fund can do to transform the living standards of a small country, while not compromising its tourism industry or natural beauty. I hope that Mr Bridges and his superiors understand that if New Zealand does not drill our oil and sell it to transform our living standards, then – as global supplies eventually become scarcer over the next century – someone will one day come and take it. It’s always better to sell something than have it stolen. Mr Bridges should also increase the royalties the oil companies have to pay.

Having said all this, I also understand that there is a risk, albeit miniscule, of a serious spill. This would kill birds, seals, dolphins and whales, and swimming, snorkelling, sailing and sandcastles would be out of the question for a while. But I also know the environment would heal itself much quicker and more completely than Greenpeace will tell us, as was the case in Brittany after 1978, Prince Williams Sound after 1989, the Gulf of Mexico after 2010 and the Bay of Plenty after the Rena in 2011. It is a risk, in my view, worth taking.

Next time Ms McDiamid purports to speak for me, I would kindly ask her to also make these points. If her bosses in Amsterdam will allow it.

We’ve had drilling for decades in Taranaki. I get sick of people in Auckland and Wellington demanding that people in Taranaki and the West Coast should lose their jobs, to make them feel better.

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