"Australian company AWE is about to drill a well close to the Marlborough Sounds, targeting a prospect that could hold up to 100 million barrels of oil, after drilling three duds in Taranaki."
The Tuatara-1 well is about 10 nautical miles (18 kilometres) west of D'Urville Island and about 45km north-east of Nelson. It will take up to a month to drill, starting within the week.
"We will do everything in our powers to make sure we don't have any adverse reactions there," AWE corporate development manager Garry Marsden said yesterday.
"But we are conscious we are in a very environmentally sensitive area there," he said.
Greenpeace campaigner Simon Boxer said the plan to drill close to the Marlborough Sounds was "quite alarming" in an area known for its tourism, recreational and commercial fishing and aquaculture.
"It is a concern, because this is taking place before [Environment Minister] Nick Smith has put together any new health and safety and regulatory structure" for the oil industry, he said.
The review of practices relating to offshore petroleum and mining activities in New Zealand's exclusive economic zone aims to make sure they are up with international best practice.
"Given the lessons of the Gulf of Mexico are still unknown ... it shows us we know very little about frontier deep water [drilling]," Mr Boxer said. Oil drilling was going ahead when it was unclear if a major oil leak could be stopped.Drilling in this place is not on. Until the lessons from BP and the whole industry are cleaned up then drilling should stop. Just think what an incentive to tidy up their dirty industry having no holes would give them. Too much is at stake, too much that could be lost. Have tangata whenua been consulted? How close to Stephen's Island and our tuatara's is this well? Isn't there a fault line under there? Who signed off this madness?