Local protesters turn out in force

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More than 150 North Otago residents were out in full force on Saturday during a South Island-wide protest against off-shore oil and gas exploration.

Banners on the Beach, organised by Greenpeace, was held at beaches across the South Island, including Moeraki and Friendly Bay.

Oamaru resident Robyn Pickens, who organised the protest at Friendly Bay, said more than 100 people attended the event.

“We were happy with the amount of people,” she said.

“I think it has started to send the message to foreign oil companies that they are not welcome in our waters.

“The next stage for us, as a community, is to get together again to talk about how we, as a community, want to move forward.”

The event at Moeraki, held at the same time, had talks by Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher and Otago University’s Associate Professor for the Energy Studies Programme Bob Lloyd.

One of the organisers, Dugald MacTavish, said more than 50 people attended the event, which aimed to help people voice their concerns about the risks involved with off-shore oil and gas exploration.

“The drilling off our very own coast has stimulated people to consider both the short-term local impacts of possible spillage vs possible jobs and the longer-term issue of climate change,” he said.

Another organiser, Bronwyn Judge, said Moeraki had such a rich coastal wildlife that needed to be protected.

“We are very concerned to protect it, especially when Anadarko’s modelling shows that in the event of a spill, no matter how unlikely, Moeraki would be the first area to be affected,” she said.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said he would have liked to have attended both protests to hear the views of local people, but they were held at the same time.

“My main concern with any of these things is that people understand the facts,” he said.

Mr Kircher spoke about how the benefits to the local economy would outweigh any risks of spillage.

“People were prepared to listen to what I had to say.”

The Banners on the Beach pickets have been organised by a number of community groups in response to Texan oil giant Anadarko beginning exploratory work off the east coast of the South Island.

By RUBY HARFIELD

OIL PROTEST: Sue Camp (left) and Reid Wilson, both from Hampden, attending the Banners on the Beach protest at Moeraki on Saturday.

PHOTO: BRONWYN JUDGE