Oil & gas protests will never cease

The government's plan to create or dramatically increase penalties for protests around oil and gas structures should not come as a surprise.

Nor should it come as a surprise that the government will do so by way of an anti-democratic process, in this case, inserting a Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) after the Select Committee hearings into the Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Bill thereby ensuring no public input.

Finally, we should not be surprised that this SOP was inserted following complaints from oil and gas companies concerned about the growing resistance to their operations.

There has been media commentary from the Greens and Labour calling the government's response an 'overreaction.' But certainly from the perspective of the government and its industry allies, it is an utterly appropriate response to a real threat. Shutting people up and keeping people powerless to stop what is going on in their communities and indeed even on their own land, is much better and easier for business.

The government is engaged in a massive project to apportion out essentially the entire country (including the 200 mile off-shore 'exclusive economic zone') to oil and gas companies for exploration and eventually drilling. Across Aotearoa, companies such as TAG Oil, Apache, Shell and Anardarko have received permits both on and off-shore to begin to look for fossil fuels. In Taranaki, the extraction has been going on for 100 years, and now looks set to ramp up several notches. The community of Tikorangi is due to get 59 new wells - all without any consent from the community.

The extraction of fossil fuel and mineral resources from Aotearoa is the state's only strategy for creating economic prosperity and job creation. They have tried to sell the country on this misguided agenda, but judging from the 40,000 on Auckland's anti-mining march, the unwavering commitment of Te Whanau Apanui to stop off-shore drilling, and the increasing community agitation against fracking in Taranaki, it isn't getting much buy-in.

At the end of the day, however, the departure of Brazilian oil company Petrobras from the Bay of Plenty/East Cape (Raukumara Basin) was driven mainly by economic factors, not political protest. Political protest was an unwelcome surprise to the company, of course and an inspiration to many - but hardly the straw that broke the camel's back.

But even this level of dissent is too much for the all-mighty giants of industry. This says much about what is going on - not just about the desire of the National party to appease industry, but of the needs of industry for protection from ordinary people armed with knowledge and networks. They are scared of the truth.

So let us not be cowered by such laws. The same old tactics are used time and time again to shut people up and to stop action. The use of such a draconian law by any government - at the behest of some corporate - will only explode in their face and expose them and their corporate mates to much more severe public backlash.

It will never stop the people from getting in the way of injustice, one way or the other. The only way that can happen is if we give up the fight.

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