By Neil Ritchie
“What impressed me the most about the visit was the very large, the huge contribution the industry makes to the region’s economy, and the national economy, but its environmental footprint is very small,” Heatley said, referring the physical size of the sites dotted around the province and offshore.
The oil and gas and petrochemical sector was much smaller physically than the Taranaki dairy industry, another economic pillar for the region and country, but contributed significantly to the nation’s economy.
Heatley also said the continuing environmental protests against oil and gas exploration were premature.
He believed it would be irresponsible not to explore for further petroleum resources and irrational not to find out what choices New Zealand might have regarding the oil and gas that still lay beneath our land and under our oceans.
The Government had the potential to earn more than $3 billion in royalties alone from oil and gas fields already in production. If the current exploration rate were to increase by 50 per cent and more discoveries were made, that figure could more than triple to $12.7 billion.
The minister said it was important for New Zealanders to get accurate, unbiased information, not “misinformation”, about the energy industry.
Lastly, Heatley denied the government was staying away from any areas likely to face environmental or Maori protests in its proposed offering of new exploration blocks around the country later this year.
“We are in the middle of consultation with iwi and with industry . . . we to want to offer the blocks we believe are the most prospective.”