Kiwis Aren’t Wrong to Protest Deep Sea Oil and Mining While Living in the Carbon Age



Almost everything we use or own has been extracted from some mine or well. Every form of transport relies heavily on fossil fuels for its construction, and usually, its propulsion. Fossil fuels and extractive industries make modern life possible. Does that mean are we wrong to object to deep sea drilling for oil and minerals proposed all around New Zealand? Are we really hypocrites, ‘rented crowds’ or nutty, for living so deeply in a carbon age but wanting that to change?

Feelings ran deep among the 5,500 of us on West Coast beaches around New Zealand in support of the Oil Seas Free flotilla on a sunny Saturday in November. Everyday Kiwis of all ages and all walks of life stood on those black sands for a whole range of reasons.

Some of us were there because we want a transition to clean energy and thereby a cleaner planet, and the step-up to that challenge could well take place here in New Zealand.

Some of us also object to New Zealand selling out to international mining and oil companies, who take all the wealth, with few dividends (royalties) for this country but all the risk. NZ needs value-added industry that contributes to our own economy and society, not one based on extraction with benefits and jobs all literally offshore. We’re not compelled to adventure further into new mineral and oil extraction, and among the options for economic ‘stimulus’ this one is quick and dirty.

Others contend that the resources being sold off are not this Government’s to sell, but part of the New Zealand inheritance owned by none and/or all equally and across generations, and unalienable by the Crown.

Many of us are concerned about the environmental effects of oil and mineral extraction – from Maui’s dolphins to surf breaks, whole ecosystems and landscapes, right through to climate chaos. We should be in no doubt that continuing our current rate of resource use is unsustainable. We know the Anadarko and New Zealand Inc oil spill response capacity is laughably inadequate. We know risks increase in a laissez faire industrial regime such as ours. To many of us, the environmental risks alone make current proposals untenable.

Even though fossil fuels and other resources underpin our society, Kiwis increasingly want change. Vehicle Kilometres travelled and car ownership per capita continue to decline. Public transport trips grow and cycling rates increase exponentially. Installation of solar panels trebled last year.

TDB Recommends

In sea bed mining and deep sea oil New Zealand is being locked into an unsustainable extractive economy with few real benefits. Ultimately we all need to modify our consumption and travel patterns to make a difference about climate change or the risks and effects of mining or oil drilling. Moving to a less destructive economy will take some transition, but trends, and protests, show many Kiwis are keen to put their words into action.


  1. My first cynical thoughts when seeing such protests was/is how much are the majority of these people doing in their own daily lives beyond sorting their trash into the right boxes to make a difference. Do the still mow their lawns with a gas fuelled mower because it’s easier, as one example, eating meat? There seems to be a lot of focus on banner waving to get some nebulous agency to force us to live simpler lives but not so much actually living less consumption based and simpler lives. Otherwise they’re really just saying NIMBY, but thanks for all the cool products and convenience.

    • You’re too cynical – many of us, myself included, recognise the contradictions in everyday life – we live in the carbon age but want a transition away from dependence on polluting and wasteful fossil fuels (even while at the same time recognising that they underpin much that’s good with our society and technology). Just because there are contradictions doesn’t mean it’s wrong to seek to remove them over time. And yes, actually I know many like myself who do 1. Mow the lawns with a push mower, not a motor mower, don’t eat meat, ride a bike or use PT rather than owning my own car, have invested in solar panels…. We try to walk the talk despite the obstacles to weaning society off fossil fuels.

  2. Hi Christine…great article which not only highlights the myriad of reasons as to why people are against drilling/mining but also addresses the issue of “hypocrites” that, quite frankly, I am sick of hearing from the supporters of these activities. From asking the stupid question of how one got to work that day, the technology they are using, right through to ridiculing the protesters last week that the boats they used would have required fuel.
    Until such time that as much revenue is diverted into the research and development with an aim to finding and implementing alternative sources of energy we have no choice but to use what is offered to us as the only solution.
    This household alone has dramatically reduced the use of its one vehicle and now prescribe to foot or public transport…in the last 8 months I have been delighted to see I have only clocked up slightly less than 800km in my car. Partly due to the cost of fuel but mostly due to making a conscience decision not to use the car. We have also taken other measures to try and make our carbon footprint smaller by way of recycling, composting and reducing our consumption of electricity. Yes, we feel rather proud of ourselves.
    But back to my main point…until such time as alternative choices are provided we have no choice but to use oil and therefore I get veeeeery mad when we are called hypocrites for having to use the only option available.
    Keep up the good work trying to open up people’s minds!

    • Kelasha

      You are a hypocrit if you use fossil fuels, it’s associated products aswell as products from the mining industry. There are alternatives, humanity has lived without theses products before. You should take a principled stand and boycot all the products from the oil, gas and mining industry, you can, it is called living in the Stone Age. Your are more than welcome to it, I will not stop you.
      All theses alternative, renewable power generators still involve using products from the oil, gas and mining industry. Oil used to make plastic sheathing for insulation for the electrical cables, silicon and gold for the solar panels, steel for structural support for the wind turbines, the list goes on. Some people only see things at surface value and have an inability to join the dots.
      Wind turbines, tidal generators, solar panels have been around for a while now. They are not very successful because they are unreliable and or expensive. Hopefully their technology will improve, but I would not hold my breath. Their is of course the nuclear option for electricity generation but some people in the public sphere get hysterical over the mention of it and cannot be entered into a reasoned debate. They name call, predict doomsday scenarios, etc.
      I like oil, gas and mining, they are not perfect but there exploitation has enabled people to live a far better quality of life than ever before.

      • Heroin makes you feel good for a while too. Unfortunately it can destroy your life while it’s at it. The energy density of petroleum has allowed us to advance in many areas, but it’s also going to make our home uninhabitable if we keep it up. Your liking it isn’t sufficient reason to continue harming the rest of us. Unlike the situation with heroin, there is no good argument to leave you and your hydrocarbon addicts alone to keep using it.

        • If you believe heroin and petroleum are comparable and both are both similar in damage then you should dissociate yourself from the it. Go on, off you go. I am not harming you at all, what is harming is to deny others the same opportunities that you. By limiting access to a relatively cheap and reliable source of energy that you have available, all you are doing is ruining the opportunities to others that you have available to yourself.
          It is also highly debatable that petroleum is ruining the habitable of our planet, when I was a young lad, many years ago unfortunately the big concern was global cooling it was believed that it would lead to nuclear winter. This was what the scientists were predicting. Fast forward to today and it has become global warming that is the catch cry. In both instants scientists said that the science was settled, it has become like the George Orwell novel “1984” we Oceania are at war with Eurasia, next instant no we are at war with East Asia and have always been so! Hence why the term man made climate change is used so both bases are covered.

          • Could you do me a favour and find me one peer reviewed scientific paper published by climatologists when you were a lad which claims global cooling was a problem and the science was settled? Please. I’ll wait.

            Note: a lot of likes on WhaleSpew does not count as peer review.

    • Thanks for the feedback Kalesha- Like you, those of us who are trying to work our way through and past dependence on fossil fuels by cutting down on vehicle ownership and use, are far from hypocritical – we acknowledge the difficulty of transitioning away from the current paradigm but do our best to reconcile the status quo with the idea. Be proud of your reduced carbon diet! Burn fat not oil!

Comments are closed.