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Statoil Deep Sea Oil Drilling, Aotearoa/New Zealand


The transnational corporation, Statoil (based in Norway), has entered into a singular agreement with the british crown treaty partner (Te Tiriti O Waitangi) to explore and drill for deep sea oil off the coast of Ahipara in the Te Reinga Basin of Aotearoa/New Zealand. They have ignored the other equal treaty partner, the Native people of the country (Māori), who have rights and claims over the area and who are 100% opposed to any exploration, seismic survey, or drilling of any kind in the land or seabed.

Statoil was given a 15-year exploration permit to search and drill for oil off the west coast of Northland, In December 2013. This permit covers just under 10,000 square kilometres of seabed. Statoil intends using sonar explosions to penetrate the seabed and bounce back to see what is below. These seismic surveys have been strongly tied to fatal whale, dolphin and giant squid strandings and deaths at sea. Then they’ll analyse the information and apply to drill for oil in the most promising places. The drilling phase would target the seabed between 1,000 and 2,000 metres below the waves. The Gulf of Mexico spill happened by drilling in 1,500 metres of water.

Opponents claim that government regulations over deep sea oil drilling are completely inadequate and if things go wrong, the Government requires these companies only to pay a small amount towards cleaning up an oil spill while the cost to our livelihoods, economy and international reputation would be devastating and would amount to billions of dollars.

Further while politicians have been claiming that there will be thousands of jobs for the north in deep sea oil drilling. Yet according to meetings with Statoil, there will be no jobs for the north and any servicing would happen out of Taranaki (1).

Māori organizations call on the Government to Honour the Crown guarantees made to Te Rarawa under Te Tiriti; and comply with its international obligations under such instruments as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007 (endorsed by the Government in 2010). More particularly, "they seek a more meaningful dialogue with the Crown regarding implementation of its obligations to Māori concerning the protection of our moana and associated taonga.”

They state that "in the petroleum context, Te Rarawa maintains our preexisting responsibilities and rights, affirmed by Te Tiriti, to exercise our customary authority over our lands, territories and associated resources." Impacts they highlight include those to their cultural resources and historical fishing routes, the environmental impact on sealife and the need to leave oil under the soil (and sea) to prevent global warming. (2) The issue can be traced back to 1840 when the British crown entered into a treaty (Te Tiriti O Waitangi) offering sovereignty to Māori people, they have used the english translation and assumed 'governorship', which was a made-up word. No Māori ever would give up sovereignty, least likely chiefs, unless coerced to sign (which indeed happened).

In 2004, after decades of protest against land theft and confiscation (raupatu), the government turned its sights on the foreshore and seabed. A new law was pushed through parliament called the Foreshore & Seabed Act which saw the largest land grab/theft in the history of Aotearoa. The crown assumed ownership of the entire EEZ (the largest in the country). 50,000 people marched against the bill, politicians crossed the floor and denounced their parties, started the new Māori Party, and still the bill passed. It was obvious the crown had plans to sell off and profit from the foreshore and seabed, and Māori and non-Māori are still fighting today for justice, Tino Rangatiratanga (sovereignty), and for the crown to HONOUR THE TREATY.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Statoil Deep Sea Oil Drilling, Aotearoa/New Zealand
Country:New Zealand
State or province:Northland
Location of conflict:Ahipara
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional 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

Project Details and Actors

Project details

No extraction has begun, but 2D seismic survey has been completed in the face of 100% opposition by native Māori and local people. The impact on our large marine mammal and fish populations is a difficult science to report on based on the remote and deep sea environment.

Project area:30,000
Level of Investment:20,000,000 or more
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:The entire country would be negatively effected by an oil spill
Relevant government actors:The National Party
Prime Minister John Key
National Party member Simon Bridges
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Ahipara Komiti Takutaimoana
Greenpeace NZ
Te Rarawa Iwi and Hapu
Other Muriwhenua Iwi (Ngati Kuri, Te Aupouri, Ngai Takoto, Ngati Kahu)

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Informal workers
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Development of a network/collective action
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Public campaigns
Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Boycotts of companies-products
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Media based activism/alternative media
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Objections to the EIA
Street protest/marches
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Development of alternative proposals
Official complaint letters and petitions


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Oil spills, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsLoss of tourism, environmental disaster, destruction of food sources, economic ruin on a national scale
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women


Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
New legislation
Criminalization of activists
Strengthening of participation
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Institutional changes
Violent targeting of activists
Withdrawal of company/investment
Development of alternatives:renewable energy investment
divestment from fossil fuels that link directly to climate change.
indigenous businesses
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:Communities are Still fighting against Deep Sea Oil Drilling and Statoil, as well as the government who has dispossessed in one swift pen stroke all the foreshore and seabed from Indigenous people of Aotearoa (Māori).

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

2004 Foreshore And Seabed Act

2011 Marine And Coastal Areas Act (Amendment, still insidious)

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

Hīkoi, 40 Years of Māori Protest, Aroha Harris

1) Northland deep sea oil factsheet

Other documents

(2) Block offer submission

Meta information

Contributor:J Murupaenga Ikenn, Ahipara Komiti Takutaimoana
Last update18/08/2019



2004 Foreshore & Seabed Hikoi (land march)

50,000 march for sovereignty and against crown control of the foreshore and seabed

2014 Hikoi

Still fighting for native rights and against government oppression and control