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Opposition to oil&gas exploitation, New Zealand


Chevron is a new entrant into the New Zealand oil and gas industry and it was recently awarded three offshore exploration permits in the Pegasus Basin, in partnership with StatOil, a Norwegian company planning to prospect off the Northland coast. All three permits are for 15 years, and in all three cases Chevron is the operator - and Chevron and Statoil each have a 50% share of the permit." [4]  In response, on 12 May 2015 Members of the Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) gathered outside the New Zealand consulate in Perth to air their concerns over Chevron being granted a permit in New Zealand and to alert the New Zealand public to the poor practices of Chevron, that have led to major disputes in the Australian offshore oil and gas industry and around the world.

In fact Chevron is the operator of Australia’s largest LNG (liquified natural gas) project Gorgon, on the remote northern coast of Western Australia, which has disappointed local communities by failing to meet commitments for local jobs and to local businesses, poor safety and other conditions for workers, massive cost overruns and project mismanagement in its construction phase. [3]  Consequently a letter was presented to the Consulate for the New Zealand Government detailing workers concerns at the way Chevron operates. It said: “Based on the global experience with Chevron, we are concerned that this exploration will not be in the best interest of your natural environment or your local families. Chevron has a concerning history of behaviour in the communities it depends on for its enormous profits. It makes promises about jobs, the benefits to local communities and protecting the environment that are often not met”. “We are alerting the New Zealand public that this operator has a very dubious record and Australian workers have experienced that first hand.” [4]  Moreover they claim that natural resources of New Zealand must be used for the benefit of New Zealand workers and people, not simply to boost profits for multinational operators. Maritime Union of New Zealand National Secretary Joe Fleetwood said the presence of Chevron is not welcomed by New Zealand maritime workers: “Our members work in this industry, we support responsible drilling with high safety standards, but we do not support companies that have a bad environmental record and anti-worker agenda entering our industry.” [3] Chevron responded on its website that it has spent over “20 years expanding systems that support a culture of safety and environmental stewardship that strives to achieve world-class performance and prevent all incidents. We call this Operational Excellence (OE), and it drives everything we do. Our workforce truly believes that incidents are preventable, and we have policies, processes, tools and behavioural expectations in place to assist us in achieving that goal.” [4]  On Thursday 25 June 2015 four environmental protesters of Greenpeace, experienced climbers, have breached security at New Zealand’s parliament by scaling the roof and perching themselves on a ledge above the main entrance. They hauled up eight solar panels and unfurled a banner to protest what they said was the government’s lack of action in promoting renewable energy and dealing with climate change. The protest began at dawn and continued throughout the morning. Police issued the four with trespass notices, but authorities said they plan to allow the protesters to come down on their own. The protest wanted to stress the need to take pro clean-energy action and to encourage people to step out of a society based around fossil fuels. [7] The protest continued on 28 August 2015, when the activists occupied the building's carpark of the Northland Regional Council to oppose deep-sea oil drilling. The council and its Māori advisory committee were meeting behind closed doors with government officials and Statoil, a Norwegian company planning to prospect off the Northland coast. Up to 100 people lined the pavement outside the council building and took over the carpark for a rally against Statoil. Greenpeace campaigner and veteran activist Mike Smith led the protest, which attracted Māori and Pākehā of all ages and from all parts of the north. Security guards kept everyone but staff and invited guests out while, inside, the council and Māori committee members grilled government officials about how Statoil's activities would be regulated. The protesters missed seeing Statoil representatives because they were whisked into the council building by the back door. But the objectors left a calling card: a dead fish at the front door. [2] Shell company is also involved in oil drilling in New Zealand. On 1 October 2015 though Shell quitted their plans to drill in the Great South Basin Southern in New Zealand. Greenpeace New Zealand’s climate and energy campaigner Steve Abel said: “National's deep sea drilling plans are failing. The collapse in the oil price has brought the industry to its knees globally as dangerous and expensive drilling plans including deep sea are being canned. In the same week that Shell abandoned plans to drill in the Arctic, it has put its reckless bid to drill in New Zealand on ice. We think it is very unlikely that Shell will return.” said Abel. But he continued: “But the fight to stop deep sea drilling off in our oceans is not over. We still have Statoil and Chevron wanting to drill but they are facing greater and greater local opposition. There are currently 13 local community campaigns to pressure regional councils to reject ‘Block Offer 2016’ in the current consultation with Iwi and councils.” [6]  In fact in that period the campaign "BlockOffer", was launched and was opened until the 30th of October 2015 and all around New Zealand people, through a submission process, were telling their local councils to say no to the block offer and no to deep sea oil [9]. On 24 November 24, 2015 five Greenpeace activists stormed on-board a New Zealand Government ship in Wellington and were locked to it, after discovering it has been searching for oil. Greenpeace said the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) taxpayer-funded climate and ocean research boat, Tangaroa, has been refitted at a cost of $24 million for oil and gas exploration, and was surveying for oil on the East Coast of the North Island on behalf of petroleum giants Statoil and Chevron. In response, three activists got on-board the vessel and locked themselves to the top of its mast, while a further two were secured to the deck. The climbers were preparing to unfurl a sail-shaped banner from the mast, reading: “Climb it Change”, while the remaining two activists had attached other banners all over the boat with the same message. The Tangaroa had been preparing to leave Wellington Harbour, where it had made a pit stop, to continue oil exploration [5].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Opposition to oil&gas exploitation, New Zealand
Country:New Zealand
Location of conflict:Pegasus Basin
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Specific commodities:Crude oil
Natural Gas

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Chevron has operated in the downstream sector of New Zealand for more than 90 years, and plans to continue to build on these relationships with communities and government.

The three petroleum exploration permits - 57083, 57085 and 57087 - in the offshore Pegasus and East Coast basins, cover more than 6.26 million acres (25,300 sq. km), in a frontier basin with water depths ranging from 2,600 feet (800 m) to 9,800 feet (3,000 m) and are located southeast of North Island. Chevron New Zealand Exploration Ltd. will be the operator of the blocks with a 50 percent working interest. Statoil will hold the remaining 50 percent interest. [1]

The New Zealand Government ship in Wellington, Tangaroa, has been refitted at a cost of $24 million for oil and gas exploration.[5]

Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:0000
Company names or state enterprises:Statoil from Norway
Chevron Polska Energy Resources Sp. z o.o. from United States of America
Royal Dutch Shell (Shell) from Netherlands
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Members of the Maritime Union of New Zealand (MUNZ) ;
International Transport Workers Federation (ITF);

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Informal workers
International ejos
Trade unions
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
many local campaigns with signatures


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Global warming
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Soil contamination, Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors


Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Under negotiation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The protests slowed down the planned of three offshore exploration permits in the Pegasus Basin from Chevron and Statoil and at now the situation is under negotiation.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Philosophy & Praxis of Non-Violent Direct Action From (past) Indigenous Resistance To (present) Environmental Campaigning In Aotearoa – New Zealand

THESIS: Moreno Ibáñez Marta, THE ENVIRONMENT AS A SPACE FOR POWER-RELATED DISPUTES. Offshoreoilexploration in New Zealand: A clash between corporate interests, governmental agenda and indigenous peoples’ rights, 23 May 2013; Abstract:

[1], Chevron Acquires Blocks Offshore New Zealand, December 2014

[2]Lois Williams, Deep-sea oil drilling protest in Northland, Radionz, 28 August 2015

[3]Perth protest rally targets Chevron’s New Zealand operation, 13 May 2015

[4] Maorielevision, Protestors against Chevron take concerns to NZ consulate in Perth, 13 May 2015.

[5], Greenpeace activists occupy Government climate ship caught searching for oil, Greenpeace, November 24, 2015

[6] Shell quits Southern drilling plans - wheelscoming of government programme, Greenpeace, October 1, 2015

[7] Theguardian,New Zealand Greenpeace protesters scale parliament roof, The guardian, 25 June 2015


Greenpeace activists convicted but receive no further punishment over 10-hour occupation of theTangaroa, Greenpeace, February 11, 2016

[9]TOKO hosted by Greenpeace, BLOCK THE OFFER

Chevron New Zealand

New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals, Block Offer 2016

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Listen to Northland reporter Lois Williams on Checkpoint

Maoritelevision, Protestors against Chevron take concerns to NZ consulate in Perth, 13 May 2015

Other documents

Theguardian,New Zealand Greenpeace protesters scale parliament roof,25 June 2015

Meta information

Contributor:Myriam Bartolucci, EjAtlas internship researcher, [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2251



Anti-oil and gas exploration protesters arrive in Waitangi in June. Photo: RNZ

Lois Williams, Deep-sea oil drilling protest in Northland, Radionz, 28 August 2015

The dead fish left by protesters today outside the Northland Regional Council. Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Lois Williams, Deep-sea oil drilling protest in Northland, Radionz, 28 August 2015

Protesters gather outside the Northland Regional Council building in Whangarei to protest against deep sea oil drilling. Photo:

Lois Williams, Deep-sea oil drilling protest in Northland, Radionz, 28 August 2015

One of the protesters: 86-year-old patuharakeke Kuia Pauline Smith Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Lois Williams, Deep-sea oil drilling protest in Northland, Radionz, 28 August 2015

Protestors in Perth have called for the New Zealand government to reconsider offshore oil exploration permits granted to oil and gas giant Chevron in the Pegasus Basin.

Maorielevision, Protestors against Chevron take concerns to NZ consulate in Perth, 13 May 2015.