Whales ‘Safe from Seismic Testing’

In 40 years there had been no recorded environmental harm from oil and gas seismic testing, Octanex director and lawyer James Willis told the New Zealand Petroleum Summit in Auckland.

“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.

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 recognized 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.”

He said the industry went out of its way to protect the environment because they knew any incidents would receive unwelcome publicity and jeopardise their licence to operate.

He said no amount of talking with protesters would appease them, yet the industry was required to go through ever increasing regulatory processes.

“The ignorance about the issues can be breathtaking.”

The new rules for offshore seismic surveying were excessive and not proportional, he said. Four years ago, getting a permit for and carrying out offshore seismic surveying was easy.

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