David Robinson, Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of NZ chief executive
PEOPLE approach public opinion polls in different ways. Just look at how politicians treat them.
If a favourable poll is released, it is welcomed and seen as a clear sign of public confidence. If a less favourable poll is released, suddenly the sample size is too small, the polling company aren’t reputable and their own internal polling apparently tells a different story.
If you liked the results of a poll showing that two-thirds of New Zealanders support or cautiously support an increase in oil exploration, you agree with it — if you don’t like the results, you try and undermine its credibility.
The same treatment is given to information about the oil and gas industry and companies involved.
When people are ideologically opposed to the industry, any information that positively promotes oil and gas is discredited and put down to spin, and every negative story is used to tar the whole industry with the same brush.
For example, Josh nit-picks through the Apache website, finds pieces of information to back up his opposition to oil and gas exploration, and uses them.
When he finds a great initiative Apache is undertaking — their new community programme called “give where we live” which aims to give back to the communities in which the company operates, offering $100,000 in grants to non-profit organisations, he tries to downplay its significance.
How can we have an open and reasonable conversation about energy and the oil and gas industry when we can’t even see the good in providing financial support to NGOs?
It is too easy for opponents to dehumanise our industry to make it about operations, technology, work sites, rigs and ships. But our industry is full of real people, with real jobs, real families and real businesses. And that is what our industry is proudly about.
Right now in New Zealand, 160,000 Kiwis can’t find work. Most of them are young New Zealanders. Most are living in our provinces.
I am not saying that growth in oil and gas is the silver bullet to our economic woes — but it’s one of a number of steps New Zealand should be taking.
There seems to be a lot of rhetoric about royalties and job creation. Here are the facts — total royalties from oil and gas last year: over $400 million; tax from petroleum was another $300 million. It’s real money. Where does that money go? Directly to help pay for public services — home insulation projects, education, health initiatives.
On the job front, we all know that oil and gas is a major employer in the Taranaki region. The unemployment rate in Taranaki is 4.8 percent; the Gisborne/Hawke’s Bay unemployment rate is 8.5 percent. In the Taranaki region the sector provides over 5000 jobs. To say jobs won’t follow investment is nonsense.
So we can argue back and forth, back and forth using hand-picked examples of why each point of view is right. But that’s not helping anyone.
New Zealanders can make up their own minds — and we need to let them. If we provide communities with actual facts, scientific reports and international advice they will be able to develop their own opinions.
Those that decide to dismiss all the good and only promote negatives are only hindering the reasonable conversation we need to have as a country about the future of oil and gas in New Zealand.