Anglicans from the Diocese of Wellington are planning a series of protests against what is billed as “New Zealand’s premier oil and gas event.” The Petroleum Conference will take place from 26 – 28 March, when “large numbers of delegates from across New Zealand and around the world come together to celebrate our petroleum industry,” conference organisers say. Senior government officials, regulators, industry leaders, international experts and service providers will gather in Wellington as “the industry comes together to celebrate its achievements.”
“New Zealand’s oil and gas sector is poised for action and ready for growth,” organisers say, “exploration activity is progressing and there is genuine excitement about the opportunities available and the development underway. Strong international attention continues to be focussed on the country with its strong economy, stable policy settings, robust regulatory framework and strong potential for commercial hydrocarbon discoveries.”
But Kate Day, the Advocacy Enabler for the Diocese of Wellington, told the diocese’s online news website Movement, that “for the past few years, the Energy Minister has used this conference to announce block offers: New areas of New Zealand land and sea that they will offer for exploration for oil and gas.”
Last year, New Zealand’s energy minister Judith Collins used the conference to offered 481,735 square kilometres of New Zealand land and sea for petroleum company tenders.
“Despite the Prime Minister declaring that climate change is this generation’s nuclear-free moment, our new government has not ruled out further offers of land and sea to the petroleum industry for exploration,” Day said. “Exploring for new oil and gas is the first step towards extracting it and burning it, and that causes carbon emissions we cannot afford. When New Zealand signed the Paris Agreement, we agreed to play our part in reducing global emissions. To do this we can’t burn existing fossil fuels, let alone mine for more.
“Mitigating climate change is essential for loving our global neighbours, caring for creation, promoting peace and stewarding our resources for future generations. Our climate is already changing, causing more storms, fires and droughts. It is our poorest global neighbours who will suffer most.”
The Diocese of Wellington has taken a number of action to mitigate climate change, including divesting from fossil fuels, tree planting, and the creation of a Climate Catalysts Network.
As part of its protests against the conference, the Diocese is encouraging Christians to write to the country’s new energy minister, Dr Megan Woods, to urge her to rule out any new oil and gas exploration in New Zealand.
They are also planning a number of events outside the conference venue. These include “speeches, music and chalk art” to coincide with the opening of the conference on 26 March; and the creation of “arty prayer / reflection” and “reconciliation / confession” spaces outside the conference venues.
The reconciliation / confession space will provide an opportunity to “invite strangers to hear us say sorry for the Church’s role in harming the environment, and invite them to share their own ‘sorry’ if they wish”, Day said.