Greenpeace oil spill maps pose Gulf of Mexico scenario for New Zealand

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New spill maps for a Gulf of Mexico-type deep-sea oil well blowout have renewed controversy over the New Zealand government's plans to allow drilling in offshore waters over 1,000 meters deep.

The spill maps published by environment campaign group Greenpeace on Wednesday showed the environmentally catastrophic blowout effects of two planned deep-sea drilling locations off the west coast of the North Island and the east coast of the South Island.

Currently, the deepest offshore production will in New Zealand was just 125 meters below the surface, but U.S.-based drilling firm Anadarko was scheduled to begin drilling at 1,500 meters deep off the coast of New Zealand's biggest city, Auckland, in the coming southern summer.

Greenpeace commissioned the maps using what it said was " industry standard modelling" based on 10 years of climate and weather data.

Such maps were required by the government before it granted a drilling licence, and Greenpeace was showing New Zealanders what the government was hiding and how the government was understating the real risks of deep-sea drilling, Greenpeace campaigner Steve Abel said in a statement.

"Drilling at these depths is much riskier than the shallow drilling we currently have in New Zealand. This modeling suggests just how much of a threat deep-sea drilling could be to our values, our seas, our beaches, our way of life and our economic prosperity, " said Abel.

The government has insisted its regulatory regime would make a Gulf of Mexico-type disaster unlikely in New Zealand, but opponents argue the country's remoteness, geography and lack of dedicated blowout equipment make it vulnerable.

Petroleum Exploration and Production Association New Zealand Chief Executive David Robinson told Radio New Zealand on Wednesday that the Greenpeace models were "science fiction" and the true, worst-case was far less alarming.

Robinson said the circumstances for a Gulf of Mexico type disaster were not found in New Zealand and test wells off the east of the South Island were more likely to find gas than oil. Endi

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