Whales ‘safe from seismic testing’

By Isobel Ewing

Taranaki Daily News

Whales are safe from seismic testing, an outspoken oil boss declared yesterday as he described various environmental regulations as excessive.

In 40 years there had been no recorded environmental harm from the activity, Octanex director and lawyer of 25 years James Willis told the New Zealand Petroleum Summit in Auckland yesterday.

“Given that all is involved is a ship with an airgun sailing up and down a predetermined route at slow speeds, that’s hardly surprising,” he said.

Now an operator must adhere to costly requirements including lodging a marine mammal impact assessment, have onboard a marine mammal observer and carry acoustic monitoring equipment.

He said a standard marine mammal impact assessment template for Taranaki waters should be available to operators rather than having to do an individual one each time.

There was no definitive proof that the sound from sonar guns harmed whales, he said.

He said whales were smart animals and would not linger in an area if the loud noises upset them.

“It’s just like if you were walking down the street and someone was using a jackhammer.

“What would you do? Cross over to the other side.”

Willis told the crowd of mostly oil and gas company men and women to “fight back” against “lapses of judgment” of regulators.

He stressed that the industry recognised the need for regulation but that recently the rise of “green tape” had become such that it was costing companies excessive amounts with little justification.

He gave the example of the EPA’s “torturous” examination of one of OMV’s applications to drill off Taranaki’s coast.

“The EPA (Environmental Protection Authority) is not dealing with an irresponsible maverick organisation, quite the opposite.”

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