Order Paper and questions

Questions for oral answer

7. Oil and Gas Exploration—Initiatives

[Sitting date: 24 November 2009. Volume:659;Page:8210. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]

7. JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: What action is the Government taking to increase oil and gas exploration in New Zealand?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Energy and Resources) : In Budget 2009, $20 million was appropriated for seismic data acquisition over the next 3 years. This summer, the motor vessel Bergen Resolution will acquire seismic data in the Pegasus Basin, the Great South Basin, and either the Challenger Plateau and Bellona Trough area, or the outer Taranaki Basin and Northland East Slope Basin area. Petroleum exploration and investment companies will then have free access to the data to assess the considerable oil and gas potential of our frontier basins.

Jonathan Young: What is the level of exploration in New Zealand waters this summer?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: This summer will be the largest exploration activity ever seen in New Zealand waters.

Hon Darren Hughes: That’s just the Minister on the beach.

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Seven offshore wells are being drilled, and thousands of kilometres of seismic data are being shot. In fact, New Zealand is ranked in the top 10 countries for offshore exploration wells. This year we have put in place a seismic data acquisition programme to continue the success. It is a good programme. I know that you do not like us responding to interjections, Mr Speaker, but I just want to say that in order that no one rushes to the beach to save the whales, I will be publishing the dates that I am on holiday.

Charles Chauvel: What steps, if any, is the Minister taking to ensure that oil extracted in New Zealand territorial waters can be refined in New Zealand, as opposed to the current situation when it has to be sent to Australia for refining, doing nothing to support New Zealand’s energy independence?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Far from not supporting New Zealand’s energy independence, I tell the member that as part of the International Energy Agency we have obligations to maintain a certain amount of oil stock. In the previous period of Government when that member’s party was in office, many millions of dollars would have been spent on oil tickets to ensure that we were in a good position. That was a proper spend; it needed to be done. But as New Zealand recovers more oil and as we export more oil, the need for those tickets to be in place is a great deal less. The New Zealand Government does not have an interest in the refinery. It would be up to the private sector to look at the resource and decide whether this was the appropriate place to make investments for further oil refining in this country.

Charles Chauvel: Is the Minister familiar with the observations today of Andrew Falloon, the director of his coalition partner ACT’s research unit, that he is “booked for 8 nights in the Abel Tasman National Park before Minister Brownlee rips it up”; and does this accurately reflect his Government’s policy on mineral exploration in New Zealand?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No and no. What is more, I do not even know the guy.

Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: A point of order has been called. I ask the Government backbenchers please to respect that.

Charles Chauvel: I seek leave to table the comments by Andrew Falloon, director of the ACT Party research unit, saying that he is booked for 8 nights in the Abel Tasman—

Mr SPEAKER: Before the member carries on, where are these comments from?

Charles Chauvel: It is from Mr Falloon’s Facebook page. [Interruption] I do seek leave; it is a serious matter.

Mr SPEAKER: No. I think I have ruled out these blog sites, and what have you.

Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Seeing that Mr Charles Chauvel is Mr Falloon’s Facebook friend—

Mr SPEAKER: I do not see how that is a point of order. The member will resume his seat.