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Petrobras withdraws – sanity prevails

5 December 2012 9 comments

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Rena stranding - oil spill - East Coast - Gerry Brownlee - protesting deep sea drilling

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Sanity has prevailed – albeit perhaps temporarily – as Brazilian oil company, Petrobras, has announced it’s withdrawal from further prospecting in the Raukumara Basin, off the East Coast of New Zealand.

Petrobras was first granted a prospecting permit on 1 June 2010. The signing was met with approval by Dear Leader,

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Oil exploration

John Key, Gerry Brownlee, and Marcelo Carlos Lins Vertis, on 1 June 2010

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Gerry Brownlee (then Minister  of Energy) granted Petrobras a five-year exploration permit covering  12, 330 sq kilometres (red lined area in map below),

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Petrobras permit

Acknowledgement: unattachednz: Petrobras Protest

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Sixteen months later, on 5 October 2011,  the MV Rena smashed into the Astrolabe Reef, also off the East Coast of New Zealand,

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MV Rena aground on astrolabe reef

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Oil began leaking from the stranded ship, eventually dumping an estimated 350  tonnes of heavy fuel oil into the sea,

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rena stranding oil cleanup (1)

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Much of this oil eventually washed onto East Coast beaches, killing an estimated 20,000 local birdlife,

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rena stranding oil cleanup (1)

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Volunteers cleaning up the mess were faced with heart-breaking  sights like this,

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rena stranding oil cleanup (01b)

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Meanwhile, John Key was otherwise engaged in more important government duties,

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Christchurch rocks for All Blacks

Full story

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Whilst it is unclear why Petrobras has backed away from continuing to exercise it’s license to prospect the Raukumara Basin for gas and oil, there are many New Zealanders who will be giving a sigh of relief.

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rena stranding oil cleanup (5)

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It  was fairly obvious to most people with a modicum of common sense that New Zealand was ill-prepared for a major oil spill disaster, as happened in the Gulf of Mexico two years ago.

Our own Rena oil-spill created an enormous ecological disaster,

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rena stranding oil cleanup (2)

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Meanwhile, our witless National ministers can’t even get their stories straight. Energy Minister, Phil Heatley issued this explanational why Petrobras was leaving,

I’ve met with them and they’ve said pretty clearly that it’s sort of technical reasons and prospectivity, meaning that they didn’t find enough to keep them sort of on the string so they want to regroup in Brazil. But we believe that there’s opportunities out there in the Raukumara Basin; others might pick up those particular permits and we might still see opportunities.”

See: Petrobras pulls out of NZ oil exploration

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rena stranding oil cleanup (3)

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If Petrobras “didn’t find enough to keep them sort of on the string ” – why would any other oil company be interested?! At $1 million a day, no oil company would be interested in taking the prospecting permit for the Raukumara Basin if  there was nothing there.

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rena stranding oil cleanup (6)

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Indeed, if Petrobras is  in dire financial straits, we are fortunate that they have pulled out now. One can only imagine a cash-strapped oil company, engaged in risky deep-sea drilling, and cutting safety corners .

The Pike River Mine disaster springs to mind what happens when companies ignore basic safety in the pursuit of profits.

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rena stranding oil cleanup (7)

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Indeed, the Royal Commission into the Pike River Mine disaster found  that the company put profits ahead of safety,

The Royal Commission of Inquiry’s report on the Pike River Mine disaster has slammed mine management and the Department of Labour for a lax attitude toward health and safety.

It highlights a culture of “production and profits before safety” which was enforced by managers, and paints a damning picture of ignored safety warnings and sidelined investigations into previous accidents.

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rena stranding oil cleanup (8)

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Now consider a deep sea drilling rig  operating under similar circumstances – taking into regard New Zealand’s lax laws under our current de-regulated safety regime (courtesy National,  1992)  – and the potential for a repeat of the  Deepwater Horizon disaster on 20 April  2010 becomes wholly apparent,

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Deepwater Horizon

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The initial explosion killed 11 men working on the platform; injured 17 others; and released about 4.9 million barrels of oil into the ocean from a 10,680 metre deep well.

The water depth was approximately 1,260 metres.

The crisis lasted for  eightyseven  days.

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Deepwater Horizon diagramme

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By comparison, the Rena stranding was on the sea surface and relatively easy to access,

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Rena diagramme on reef

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It took over five weeks for  salvage crews to  finish pumping 1,454 tons of oil from the Rena. After fourteen months, the wreck of the now-submerged vessel remains, in pieces, on the reef along with an unknown number of sunken containers.

Now compare the depth of  where Deepwater Horizon was operating in the Gulf of Mexico (1,260 metres), with that of the Raukumara Basin,

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raukumara-basin-map

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It took the Americans 87 days; with all their technological prowess; their Coastguard and navy;  and billions of dollars, to cap an oil spill that was in waters 1.26 kilometres (1,260 metres) deep.

Parts of the Raukumara Basin are over 6 kilometers (six thousand metres) deep.

Despite constant questions to Key and his Ministers, there is no indication that New Zealand is in any way prepared to deal with an oil blow-out that is six kilometres under water. National has consistantly fobbed off questions of concern regarding this country’s ability to address a critical oil spill.

As recently as 24 October, this exchange took place between Dear Leader and Russell Norman, of the Green Party.,

Questions for oral answer

5. Oil and Gas Exploration—Deep-sea Oil-drilling and Environmental Risk

5. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement, “We’re not environmental bandits. If we don’t believe drilling can take place in a way that is environmentally sustainable and wouldn’t put at undue risk the environment, we wouldn’t go with it.”; if so, why?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : I stand by my full statement, which included that we want to balance our economic opportunities with our environmental responsibilities; because it is true.

Dr Russel Norman: How is deep-sea drilling not putting the environment at undue risk, when just this month Dayne Maxwell of Maritime New Zealand said about the Government’s oil response equipment: “Most of the response equipment that we have is designed for near-shore sheltered conditions, and really there isn’t available internationally any equipment specifically designed to operate in the rough kind of conditions offshore that we have in New Zealand.”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, that is one person’s view. I think it is also worth remembering that if somebody gets a permit to go and undertake these activities in the exclusive economic zone, not only would this Government be filling a gap that was previously left open but also there would no doubt be conditions on that. Finally, as I said yesterday, there have been 50,000 wells drilled in the Gulf of Mexico. Is the member arguing that all of those wells were a high risk and should have been closed up?

Dr Russel Norman: How is deep-sea drilling not putting the environment at undue risk, when the head of the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association said in April 2011: “You know, there is no absolute guarantee that disasters won’t happen, and if you had a major catastrophe, it would be just as bad as you have in North America.”—aka Deepwater Horizon?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I mean, the member asked me yesterday about the head of Anadarko. One of the things he did say to me in the meeting was that there were a lot of learnings that had come out of that situation, and that they can be applied so that those things do not happen again. Secondly, if the member is reflecting on a comment by an individual that basically says there are no guarantees in life, well, actually, that is true, but, on the same basis, the member will never get on a plane again, never get in a car again, never get on a train again, never do a lot of things he does, because the risk is that something very bad can happen.

Dr Russel Norman: How is deep-sea drilling not putting the environment at undue risk when a leak at 2.5 kilometres under water cannot be fixed by divers, and companies are forced to rely on robots and relief rigs, and this is diametrically different from operating in shallow water, like the case in Taranaki, where the deepest production well is only 125 metres deep?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: All of those issues in mitigation of any risk would have to be considered as part of an application to drill in the exclusive economic zone.

Dr Russel Norman: How is deep-sea drilling not putting the environment at undue risk, given that the Gulf of Mexico disaster was stopped only when a second rig drilled a relief well, and this Government will not require a relief rig to be on site during deep-sea drilling operations in New Zealand?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is jumping to conclusions. He does not know what conditions will be set. But, in the end, I mean, this is really the fundamental problem, is it not, with the Green Party. What Green members are arguing is that everything contains some risk, so they do not want to do anything, except that they want to give lots and lots of money away, which is why they come up with the only solution that that person could come up with—print it!

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was not a question about the Prime Minister’s former job as a currency speculator. It was about deep-sea oil production. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I think we will consider it a draw at that point.

Dr Russel Norman: Given that the Prime Minister is putting enormous weight on this new piece of flimsy legislation, the exclusive economic zone Act, how does he think that this particular piece of legislation will plug an oil leak at 2.5 kilometres under water? Does he plan to shove the legislation in the hole? Does he think that might work?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think it is unlikely a couple of bits of paper will work. But let us cut to the chase here. We are a Government that is actually filling a gap that has been missing from our environmental protection. That member has been in the House for how long? And how many members’ bills has he put in about this issue? Oh, that is right—none. What he is focused on is printing money. That is his focus of attention.

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was not about the Prime Minister’s currency speculation—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! On this occasion I invite the member to reflect on the question he asked. It kind of invited the sort of response he got.

Dr Russel Norman: Why has this Government taken a major anti-environmental turn since the 2011 election; is it because of the rising influence of Steven Joyce and others—environmental bandits within the National Party—who now dominate Cabinet and the Prime Minister?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Shock, horror! It is Steven Joyce’s fault. No. It is because this is a Government that wants, in an environmentally sensible and considered way, also to grow the economic opportunities for New Zealanders. That member wants to go down to the West Coast and say it is really bad that people are losing their jobs, potentially, at Spring Creek, while at exactly the same time he is stopping them getting a job down the road. I call that hypocrisy.

Source

I have re-printed nearly all the text of that exchange to show the reader that,

  • National has no answer to critical safety issues surrounding deep-sea drilling,
  • National is willing to engage in risky commercial behaviour for short term gain,
  • John Key has a cavalier, foolish attitude when it comes to serious issues like this.

Should foreign oil companies engage in deep sea oil drilling, and should a disaster similar to Deepwater Horizon occur, this is what we can expect as a consequence;

1. The economic fallout of any off-shore disaster involving a massive, uncontrollable oil-spill, will impact on our “clean and green” image and will cause incalculable harm to our tourist industry.

2. The harm to our fishing industry in an affected zone will result in lost exports and jobs.

3. As with the owners of the Rena, and BP’s reluctance to pay full costs for the Gulf of Mexico spill, we can expect the owners of a failed deep-sea drilling rig to evade paying for the full clean-up costs and compensation to local businesses that suffer as a consequence.

4. National will hold a Commission of Inquiry into any deep-sea oil spill.

5. Such a Commission will find the oil company  at fault – but not National, who allowed deep-sea drilling to take place without adequate safety precautions in place, in the first place.

6. A token gesture of a ministerial “resignation” will take place. Then followed by John Key wiping his hands and insisting  that,

“The Royal Commission found the Department of [insert name]  itself did not have the focus, capacity or strategies to ensure [insert company]  was meeting its legal responsibilities under health and safety laws, blah, blah, blah…”

See:  Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson resigns in Pike River report fallout

National governments – they permit things to happen.

But never take responsibility.

I doubt John Key and Gerry Brownlee will be helping to clean up the next oil-fouled beach, somewhere on our coastline. That responsibility will go to others, who had no making in the decision to allow deep-sea drilling in our waters.

Never underestimate National politicians (and their supporters) to do dumb things.

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John key - deep sea drilling - rena - oil spill

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Sources

unattachednz: Petrobras Protest (31 March 2011)

OFW Magazine: Salvage crew returns to NZ ship (Rena, 13 October 2011)

NZ Herald: Rena: Oil clean-up chemical worries Greenpeace (25 Nov 2011)

Business Insider: BP Only Wants To Pay $15 Billion To US Authorities Over The Gulf Oil Spill (9 June 2012)

Business Insider: 19 Months Later, Here’s What We’ve Learned From The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (3 Dec 2012)

Radio NZ: Petrobras pulls out of NZ oil exploration  (4 Dec 2012)

Previous related blogposts

On the smell of an oily rag (11 Oct 2011)

Additional reading

It’s Déjà vu All Over Again

Gary Taylor: Sloppy oil mining rules too risky

World’s Largest Oil Rig Sinks

Rena timeline

Other blogs

TangataWhenua: Petrobras pulls out of Raukumara Basin

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New Year’s Wish List for 2012…

29 December 2011 9 comments

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My New Year’s wish list for 2012. Nothing too extravagant – just a few things that, in my ‘umble opinion, would make New Zealand the egalitarian social democracy we once had – before someone thought that pursuing the Almighty Dollar was more important than building communites.

In no particular order,

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  Stop the asset sales process. This government has no mandate to privatise any of our SOEs. There is also no rationale for any privatisation, as dividends  exceed the cost of borrowing by the State.

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  Halt the Charter Schools programme. There is little evidence that Chart Schools achieve better results  than  non-Charter Schools, and at least one major research project on this issue indicates that Charter Schools are a waste of time.

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  Introduce “civics” into our classroom curriculum. I’ve never considered this a necessity – up until now – but our recent low voter turnout – coupled with peoples’ apalling knowledge of how how political system works – is disturbingly. A modern democracy can only flourish if the public participate; contribute; and take ownership of the system.  Apathy breeds cynicism, frustration, and ultimately disengagement, disempowerment, and a violent response.

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  Implement programmes to assist those in poverty – especially families with children. Meals in schools (breakfasts and/or lunch) would be a great start. Build more state housing. Support programmes that help get young people  into training, upskilling, and  other constructive activities.

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  Stop bene-bashing and tinkering with the welfare system. Our high unemployment is a symptom of the current economic recession – not the cause of it. Instead, government must focus on job creation policies; training and upskilling of unemployed; and spending on infrastructure that maximises new jobs – not reduces them.

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  It’s time to wind back our liberalisation of liquor laws in this country. That particular experiment has been a colossal failure. Split the drinking age to 18/20; ban ALL alcohol advertising; put in place minimum pricing; reduce hours of retailers and bars; give communities greater voice and control of liquor outlets; make public drunkeness an offence; and implement the other recommendations of the Law Commission’s report, ‘Alcohol In Our Lives: Curbing the Harm‘.

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  Increase funding for Pharmac so that sufferers of rare diseases, such as Pompe’s,  can have hope for their future, instead of mortgaging it merely to postpone death for another day. We can do this – we must do this.

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  Release and make public all relevant information regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). Making such deals in secret is hardly the transparency-in-government that John Key says he supports.

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  Maintain and keep funding TVNZ7. The planned closure of this station – and replacement with a shopping channel – would be a blow to decent public television in this country. We can, and must do better, than simply a channel devoted to more mindless consumerism.

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  Cease from further cuts to the civil service. Sacking loyal, conscientious, workers is not the “capping” – it is adding to the unemployment dole queues. It is gutting the system that makes a modern society function and we are losing decades of collective skills and experience for no discernible purpose. We went through this in the late ’80s; early ’90s; and late ’90s – and our services suffered as a result.

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Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Stat!

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  The Ministerial committee on poverty is set to end homelessness by 2020. This is simply not good enough!!! Bill English was interviewed on Radio NZ  on 16 December, and his responses to Kathryn Ryan’s questions were not reassuring. This excerpt from the interview was most telling,

RYAN: “It’s to report every six months, the committee. What measures will it use?”

ENGLISH: “Well, look, we won’t  spend a lot of time arguing over measures, there’s any number  of measures out there ranging from gini co-efficients  to kind of upper quartile [and] lower quartile incomes. Lot of of that is already reported in the MSD social report that it puts out each year…”Bill English and the new ministerial committee on poverty

If the Committee doesn’t monitor itself, how will it be able to measure it’s success (or fail) rate?

Poverty and unemployment have to be the top priorities of this government. Nothing else is as important.

Like the way in which the Jobs Summit, in early 2009,  sank beneath the waves,  I do not hold out for much success though.

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  Less spent on roads – more on rail and other public transport. Our continuing reliance on imported fossil fuels will not help our economy or environment one iota.

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  No mining on the Denniston Plateau (or any other Conservation lands). This ecologically-sensitive wilderness area needs to be preserved for future generations.  If we want to make money our of our environment – tourism is the way to go, contributing to approximately 10% of this country’s GDP.  John Key. Minister of   Tourism (NZ – not Hawaii), take note.

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  No deep-sea oil drilling. The stranding of the ‘Rena’ and subsequent loss of  of 350 tonnes (out of around 1,700 tonnes) of oil into the sea is the clearest lesson we’ve been taught that NZ is simply not prepared to cope with a massive deep-sea oil spill. An event such as the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, last year in April, by comparison lost 780,000 cubic metres of oil. An event of that magnitude would be catastrophic to our countrry.

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  Free healthcare for all young people up to 18.  And children to have first priority when it comes to our resources and funding. The future of our nation depends on healthy, well-educated, balanced children growing up as productive members of our society. Who knows – if we look after our children properly, they might feel more connected to our country and more motivated to live here instead of leaving for Australia. If we want our children to have committment to New Zealand – we need to be committed to them.

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Those are a few of my New Year’s wish list.  There are probably others that I may add at a later date – but they’ll do for now.

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Of Polls, Politics, & Pollution

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“Do as I say, Not as I Do”, is not a particularly savvy way to relate to an important electorate such as Epsom,

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Full Story

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It beggars belief that a Party leader could ask voters in a given electorate to vote for the candidate of another Party – whilst he himself supports his own Party’s candidate.  John Key has stated categorically,

“‘I’m going to vote for Goldsmith. I am the National Party leader and I am going to vote for the National Party candidate and give my party vote to National.Source

One wonders how National supporters in Epsom must be feeling.

The leader of their Party hints that they should vote for ACT’s John Banks, whilst Key himself votes for the National candidate, Paul Goldsmith?

And if Paul Goldsmith is the “sacificial lamb” – why is he standing as an electorate candidate anyway?  National could just as easily – and more honestly – simply not stand a candidate and mount a publicity campaign for the Party Vote only,

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In effect, National’s  electorate candidate is not really campaigning to win. And if he doesn’t want to win, why is he standing? To give  Epsom National supporters a “wink and a nod” to Electorate Vote ACT and Party Vote National?

And if such is the case – what possible legitimacy does that give ACT when they can’t attract electorate support on their own merits?

So much for ACT being a Party that encourages success through merit. Especially when they apply the merit-based principle to Maori:  Maori Must Earn Auckland Seats On Merit .

As the ACT statement sez;  “Let our bright boys and girls EARN their seats.

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ACT and National’s  machinations in Epsom are, of course, due to ACT’s low poll ratings. Practically every single poll has them around the 1.5-3.5% mark. Under MMPs rules, if they cannot cross the magical 5% Party Vote threshold – or – win an Electorate Seat, they will end up like  The Alliance and NZ First: out of Parliament.

(Despite what critics of proportional representation would have us believe, MMP is not a very ‘forgiving’ system to small Parties.)

The latest Horizon Poll makes for very interesting reading. Horizon is the only polling company that prompts Undecideds to state a preference. Under this system, the results appear to give a far more realistic result of Voter’s intentions, rather than the ‘fantasmagorical‘ results that have National at 53-55%-plus,

Horizon is the only polling company publishing results for don’t know voters.

Horizon’s results are for

  • Decided voters
  • Undecided voters with a preference

who are

  • Registered to vote and who
  • Intend to vote.

The poll finds

  • National has 36.8% of registered voters (down 2.7% since September 22)
  • Labour 25.7% (-1.1%)
  • Green Party 11.6% (up 0.9%)
  • New Zealand First 6.2% (- 1.1%)
  • Mana Party 2.3% (+ 0.3%)
  • Act 3.4%  (down 1.4% from September and down from a high of 5.3% in May shortly after Don Brash became leader)
  • Maori Party 1.7% (+0.7%)
  • United Future 0.4% ( 0% in September)
  • Conservative Party of New Zealand 2.2% (new party, first time measured)
  • New Citizens 0%
  • Other parties 1.2%

National has highest voter loyalty:  76.2% of its 2008 voters still support it. It has picked up 19.9% of Act voters and 9.1% of Labour voters (while Labour has picked up 7.6% of National’s).

The Greens have 68.7% voter loyalty and are gaining 2008 voters from the Maori Party (23.1%) and Labour (14.6%).

Labour has 63% voter loyalty, losing 14.3% to the Greens, 9.1% to National and 3.7% to New Zealand First.

The Maori Party has 30.8% voter loyalty, losing 23.1% of its 2008 voters to the Greens and 19.1% to Mana.

Assuming John Banks wins the Epsom electorate seat for Act, Peter Dunne retains Ohariu-Belmont, the Maori Party retains its four electorate seats and Hone Harawira retains Te Tai Tokerau, a 122 seat Parliament  would result, with a two Maori Party seat overhang, comprising:

National 50

Act 5

Maori party 4

United Future 1

Current governing coalition: 60 seats

Labour 35

Green 16

NZ First 8

Total: 59 seats

Mana 3

Horizon Research says a great deal depends on the support New Zealand First attracts at November 26.

Horizon polls have had the party at 6% or higher since November 2010. (Note the poll’s margin of error is +/- 2.2%).

Source

If correct, National is in trouble.  Their chances of a second term are not guaranteed, and judging by the public’s low opinion of National’s performance of the grounding of the m.v. Rena; the double credit-rating downgrades; the questionable veracity of the so-called Standard & Poors  “email”; and various promises made that have not been kept, John Key’s “teflon” image is definitely beginning to show signs of wear and tear.

And with the RWC behind us, and the public “partyed-out”, a return to politicking may be a welcomed diversion for many. Especially as people begin to focus on issues such as asset sales and the sales of farmland – both contentious and highly unpopular with the public.  In a way, the RWC may even strengthen opposition to asset/farm sales to foreigners.

After all, if we’re good enough to beat the world in rugby, then  why the dickens aren’t we good enough to hold on to our taongas?! Explain that, Dear Leader!!

On the other hand, though Labour leader Phil Goff has consistently polled lower than Key, his dogged determination to persevere and not fold under media scrutiny may actually earn him “brownie points” with the public.

Goff can wear the label of  “underdog” with real credibility. If Labour can play on this in a subtle manner, and show that Goff does not cave under pressure; that he keeps on like the proverbial ‘Energizer Bunny’ when all seems lost; and that he doesn’t rely on shallow charisma and meaningless smiles and utterances – he is in with a fighting chance.

God knows that lesser mortals would’ve probably chucked it in long before now, and call for a replacement from the “benches”.

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Another Horizon Poll has shown what many suspected would be the reaction from New Zealanders over the grounding of the m.v. Rena: that the government was slow of the mark and wasted precious time in delaying action,

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Source: Horizon Polls

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Taken in isolation, the grounding and response from government and statutory bodies would probably have raised no more than slight annoyance from the public.

But the grounding of the Rena is now the third major disaster this country has experienced; on top of the Pike River Mine explosions and the Christchurch earthquakes.

In both instances, central government made promises to locals that – in hindsight – may have been unrealistic at best, and irresponsible at worst. Public patience with the ever-smiling, waving, John Key may be wearing just a bit thin.

Then on top of all that, was the near-disaster of the Rugby World Cup’s opening night. The government had well and truly taken their collective eyes of the ball that night, and it is pure good luck that no one was seriously injured or killed in the mayhem.

Unrealistic promises and slow responses were only the beginning.

We also have the government intending to bring deep-sea oil drilling to our coastal waters. More than half the country by now must be asking themselves,

Just hang on a mo’, Mr Prime Minister! If we can barely cope with a single stranded freighter, sitting on the surface of the sea – how the heck are we going to cope with a major oil disaster that might be two or three times the depth of the Gulf of Mexico disaster?! Aside from hoping for good luck that nothing goes wrong, we’re not really prepared are we, Mr Key?

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To make things worse, is the disquieting suspicion that our de-regulated safety regime; lax building codes; and continual cutbacks to government workers are  contributing to a systematic running-down of essential services. Especially when even  emergency services are now starting to feel the blades of National’s  savage cuts,

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Full Story

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When the aspirational middle class Baby Boomers start to feel that their comfort zones are threatened, government politicians should take heed. That’s when we throw out governments. We don’t like our “comfort zones” upset. (It upsets our delicate tummies.)

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Now let’s really stir the political pot of discontent;   our youth seem to have re-discovered their own political power and realised that leaving matters to the Older Generation (us) may not achieve the outcomes they desire. God knows our generation has succeeded in wrecking the global economy; threatening the stability of the Eurozone; and bringing the once great super power that is the United States, to it’s knees.

Young folk have woken up to the world around them – and they are not very happy at what they find,

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Full Story

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The recent government interference in Student Union affairs (forcing voluntary unionism upon people who may not necessarily wish for it) should be a stark wake-up call to young people that National governments – far from being “hands off” and opposed to “nanny statish” behaviour – can be just as controlling as their counterparts allegedly were.

In fact, more so. After all, this “hands off” government did force almalgation on Aucklanders without any democratic referendum being conducted. National had no hesitation in passing legislation to ban cellphone usage whilst driving (but not banning  applying makeup or eating whilst driving). Then they lifted the driving age. And have begun liquor law reforms. And John Key is even now contemplating the ungodly “Nanny Statish” policy of making Kiwisaver compulsory!! Oh dear gods – whatever next?!

Oh, that’s right – National wanted to  extend Police powers to allow greater video surveillance in the community. (Which even ACT decided was a step too far.)

All in all, the gloss has worn away from this government, and it’s track record of the last three years cannot be dismissed with a smile and a wave, with a hollow promise chucked in for good measure.

And young New Zealanders are starting to flex their political muscle.

Not too bad, on top of winning the rugby world cup, eh?

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Evidently it’s a “balancing act”?

19 October 2011 2 comments

The latest “vacant optimism” from John Key,

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Full Story

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Answering queries about offshore drilling, Key said it was a “balancing act” between business and the environment.”

“Balancing act”? Jeez, has this man learnt nothing from the last couple of weeks???

Is this man for real?

New Zealand  is hit with the worst environmental disaster since Whenever, and John Key maintains an equanity stating that “we need to protect the environment as much as we can but not to the point where we do absolutely nothing. This is a tragedy that’s occurred of no fault of any New Zealander –  this is a boat that’s run aground and accidents do happen whether they’re on land or on sea or on the air.”

Well, excuse me, Mr Kiey – but the explosion that blew apart the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico in April last year, killing 11 men, and spewing 4.9 million barrels (780,000 m3) of crude oil into thre Gulf Of Mexico – was also no doubt an accident.

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Of course accidents happen. Only a fool denies that. But it takes a wise person to weigh the risks and arrive at a sensible conclusion. In this case, it seems blatantly obvious that (a) New Zealand could not handle the grounding of one single freighter, the “Rena”  (b) cannot extract 1700 tonnes of oil and 200 tonnes of diesel  (c) has had 300+ tonnes of oil leak into the sea, and (d) more may end up in the sea, as the ship eventually breaks up.

So the multi-billion dollar disaster of the Gulf of Mexico should serve as a very loud warning to us all: we have no way of dealing with a really bad oil spill.

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The “Rena”  was one ship; on the surface; run aground; with a (relatively) small quantity of oil aboard.

Now imagine an oil rig blowing apart, as the Deepwater Horizon did last year, spewing millions of tonnes of oil into our coastal waters, as happened in the Gulf of Mexico.

Now let’s re-read John Key’s statement; “we need to protect the environment as much as we can but not to the point where we do absolutely nothing. This is a tragedy that’s occurred of no fault of any New Zealander –  this is a boat that’s run aground and accidents do happen whether they’re on land or on sea or on the air.”

Is the man clueless or what?!

Just to remind us all what is at stake,

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Containers from the 47,230 tonne Liberian-flagged Rena float next to it after falling from the deck, about 12 nautical miles (22 km) from Tauranga, on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island October 12, 2011, a week after hitting the Astrolabe Reef. The captain of the Rena has appeared this morning in the Tauranga District Court over the incident and has been remanded on bail, and about 70 containers fell from the vessel amid heavy seas last night, according to Maritime New Zealand.

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A volunteer removes thick fuel-oil from the stricken container ship Rena washed up on beaches at Papamoa, near Tauranga October 12, 2011. The 47,230-tonne Liberian-flagged Rena has been stranded on a reef 12 nautical miles off Tauranga on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island since running aground a week ago and authorities estimated 300 tonnes of oil have escaped from the ship, causing the country's worst environmental disaster in decades.

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Volunteers remove thick fuel-oil from the stricken container ship Rena washed up on beaches at Papamoa, near Tauranga October 12, 2011. The 47,230-tonne Liberian-flagged Rena has been stranded on a reef 12 nautical miles off Tauranga on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island since running aground a week ago and authorities estimated 300 tonnes of oil have escaped from the ship, causing the country's worst environmental disaster in decades.

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Conservation officials remove dead seabirds as thick fuel-oil from the stricken container ship Rena fouls beaches at Papamoa, near Tauranga October 12, 2011. The 47,230-tonne Liberian-flagged Rena has been stranded on a reef 12 nautical miles off Tauranga on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island since running aground a week ago and authorities estimated 300 tonnes of oil have escaped from the ship, causing the country's worst environmental disaster in decades.

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A volunteer looks at dead seabirds on the shore as thick fuel-oil from the stricken container ship Rena fouls beaches at Papamoa, near Tauranga October 12, 2011. The 47,230-tonne Liberian-flagged Rena has been stranded on a reef 12 nautical miles off Tauranga on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island since running aground a week ago and authorities estimated 300 tonnes of oil have escaped from the ship, causing the country's worst environmental disaster in decades.

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Conservation officials remove dead seabirds as thick fuel-oil from the stricken container ship Rena fouls beaches at Papamoa, near Tauranga October 12, 2011. The 47,230-tonne Liberian-flagged Rena has been stranded on a reef 12 nautical miles off Tauranga on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island since running aground a week ago and authorities estimated 300 tonnes of oil have escaped from the ship, causing the country's worst environmental disaster in decades.

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A volunteer removes fuel oil from the stricken container ship Rena that washed up on beaches at Papamoa, near Tauranga October 12, 2011. The 47,230-tonne Liberian-flagged Rena has been stranded on a reef 12 nautical miles off Tauranga on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island since running aground last week. Authorities said up to 300 tonnes of the ship's 1,700 tonnes of heavy fuel oil had already escaped, causing the country's worst environmental disaster in decades.

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Conservation officials search for dead and injured seabirds as thick fuel-oil from the stricken container ship Rena fouls beaches at Papamoa, near Tauranga October 12, 2011. The 47,230-tonne Liberian-flagged Rena has been stranded on a reef 12 nautical miles off Tauranga on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island since running aground a week ago and authorities estimated 300 tonnes of oil have escaped from the ship, causing the country's worst environmental disaster in decades.

Source

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The unfortunate aspect to National’s plans to allow deep sea oil drilling is that governments come-and-go.  But the effects of their actions live on for years and decades.  Rob Muldoon’s canning of  Labour’s superannuation scheme n 1975 and the ‘Think Big’ projects, and Roger Douglas’s so-called “reforms” are but a few well-known examples.

Long after John Key has vacated Parliament, deep sea drilling rigs will pose an ongoing risk to our coastal waters and environment. This is simply not acceptable.

It is up to New Zealanders to call a halt to such madness when they enter the Ballot Booth on 26 November.

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Additional information

The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill by the Numbers

Wikipedia List of oil spills

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