Oil victory thanks to NZ ‘people power’, says Greenpeace chief

The Greenpeace environmental flagship Rainbow Warrior 3 in Auckland on the first leg of its seven-week “Making Oil History” tour. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

By Rahul Bhattarai

Greenpeace executive director Russel Norman praised the “people power” that gained an important victory in the “oil war” when the Rainbow Warrior docked in Auckland yesterday for a week-long visit.

The Greenpeace environmental flagship was welcomed by about 200 people – including some original crew members – on the first leg of its seven-week “Making Oil History” tour of New Zealand after arriving at Matauri Bay on Sunday.

“It brings a tingle down the spine to see the Rainbow Warrior return to the port of Auckland” where the original Rainbow Warrior was bombed by French secret agents on July 10, 1985, killing photographer Fernando Pereira,” Dr Norman said.

READ MORE: The Rainbow Warrior itinerary in NZ

“It’s about celebrating the people power movement in Aotearoa which was able successfully to put pressure and build a movement to support a government that wanted to end issuing new exploration permits for oil and gas,” Dr Norman told the crowd.

“And that’s a very, very important victory, and it’s a victory that was only possible because of people power.”

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New Zealanders from north to south had come out to rally and protest against offshore exploration for oil and gas.

“Iwi and hapu came out to the beaches and in front of seismic testing vessels to stop and confront the oil industry,” he said.

“That was an epic struggle, mostly successful in ending new offshore exploration permits for oil and gas”.

But it was not yet entirely finished business, said Dr Norman.

The struggle needed to go on.

Hilari Anderson (from left), David Robie, Trevor Darville, Margaret Mills and Susie Newborn at the welcome for the Rainbow Warrior on Princes Wharf yesterday. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

The crowd included two original Rainbow Warrior crew members, Hilari Anderson and Susie Newborn, relief cook Margaret Mills on the ship at the time of the bombing and author and journalist David Robie, who travelled on board for the Rongelap Atoll voyage and wrote Eyes Of Fire.

The tour was “not only remembering about the past and the great victory in terms of nuclear testing in the Pacific and nuclear-free New Zealand”, it was about the continuing people power struggle, said Dr Norman.

The Rainbow Warrior will be open for public viewing on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson said events would be hosted on board the ship to inform the public about what New Zealand’s energy transition might look like.

After Auckland, the Rainbow Warrior will sail to Whangaparaoa Bay in the eastern Bay of Plenty and to the East Coast to pay respects for the work the community has done.

Larsson said the ship would then go to Wellington for another event with politicians exploring the future of energy in New Zealand.

After Wellington, the ship will sail to Kaikoura where it will document wildlife.

The campaign ship will also visit Lyttelton and Dunedin.

The last leg will be to Stewart Island before heading for Australia to protest against oil companies’ offshore exploration plans in the Great Australian Bight.

Don McGlashan singing “Anchor Me” at the welcome for the Rainbow Warrior yesterday. Video clip: Del Abcede/PMC

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

‘Staggering’ drop in PNG’s resource sector revenue hits development

Papua New Guinea’s mining, oil and gas sector … “precipitous decline in resource revenues” for the whole country. Images: Ramu Mine

By Glenn Banks and Martyn Namorong in Port Moresby

Government revenues from Papua New Guinea’s mining, oil and gas sector have essentially dried up.

With the ongoing effects of the devastating earthquake in Hela province, the eruption of election-related violence in the Southern Highlands, a significant budget shortfall, and a foreign exchange crisis driving business confidence down, the resources of the government are severely stretched… and the massively expensive APEC meeting looms in November.

In this context, the drop in government revenue from the resource sector is staggering. And accounts in significant part for the growing fiscal stress.

In 2006-2008, according to Bank of Papua New Guinea figures, the government collected more than K2 billion (NZ$0.9 billion) annually from the sector by way of taxes and dividends, on mineral exports that had just topped K10 billion (NZ$4.6 billion) for the first time.

In 2017, the figure is just K400 million (NZ$180 million) on exports of K25 billion (NZ$11.5 billion) – a revenue reduction of more than 80 percent in the same time that exports have increased by 150 percent.

Government dividends and corporate taxes made up just 1.6 percent of the value of exports in 2017 (and that was a significant increase over 2015 and 2016).

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If we take the long-term average share of the value of exports that the government has received (at a little over 10 percent), this points to a potential ‘‘hole’’ of at least K8 billion over the past four years, an amount that would go a long way to covering the current fiscal deficit.

Some precedents
There are some precedents for the rapid drop in government revenues from the sector. In 1990 and 1991 – just as the ‘‘resources boom’’ triggered by the Porgera gold mine and oil production at the Kutubu oilfield began – revenues collapsed, largely due to the closure of the Bougainville copper mine in 1989; and again, briefly in 2009 due to the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008.

But neither of these has been as deep or as sustained as the current hole.

A full explanation of the precipitous decline in resource revenues is beyond the scope of this analysis.

Clearly, a number of factors are involved, including a fall in commodity prices, major construction and expansion costs (which attract accelerated depreciation provisions) and generous tax deals.

The revenue dry-up of the past four years also reveals that the state bears a disproportionate share of the risks associated with resource projects and investments. If we go back to the original intent of the post-Independence mineral policy, it was to translate mineral wealth into broad-based development across the whole country:
“…known mineral resources should be developed for the revenue they can provide to the government” (PNG Department of Finance 1977: 2).

This clearly has not happened in the last four years. And certainly the Treasurer cannot be critiqued for commissioning yet another fiscal review: this seems appropriate, although whether it effectively addresses broader issues of a “fair share” of mineral wealth remaining in PNG remains to be seen.

While there is much less money coming from the resources sector, there is at least better data than there used to be. The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) is a global initiative begun in 2002 to give transparency to what were regarded as often opaque flows of resource revenues from multinational companies in the extractives sector (especially oil) to the state in the countries in which they were operating.

Voluntary initiative
It is a voluntary initiative in which countries (and companies) can elect to become a “candidate” country, and so long as they are able to be compliant with EITI standards, they can be admitted as a full member of EITI.

The key requirement is to be able to report in a reliable way (through third party audits) on the revenues paid by companies, and reconcile these with payments received by the different arms of the state.

The involvement of all parties – companies, governments and civil society – and public communication around the event and its products is also seen as central to both transparency and raising awareness of the nature of resource revenues and their destination.

Papua New Guinesa initiated its involvement in EITI in 2012. Four annual EITI reports have so far been produced (for the years 2013 to 2016). These reports provide an increasingly rigorous and transparent set of data on flows from the sector to the government, and identify additional revenue streams to the government than what BPNG use (and have used for the past 40 years).

When all the additional revenue streams that EITI identify are included, the total share of the value of mineral exports rises to around 6.5 percent for 2017, up from the 1.6 percent based on the BPNG data.

EITI is not without its problems and the most recent PNG country report identifies areas where it needs to be strengthened in PNG, and a focus on companies rather than operations can lead to the obfuscation of total flows and payments from each mine, oil and gasfield.

In the PNG context, an examination of the sub-national flows and audit trails is also significant, and an initial study into this is underway.

This article was originally published in the PNG Post-Courier.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Time for Xanana Gusmao to step up and fix Timor-Leste’s problems

By Jose Belo in Dili, Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste’s parliamentary elections on May 12 have returned Xanana Gusmao to the Government Palace in Dili in an alliance that gives him enough votes to govern in his own right.

While Gusmao has won an election held only 10 months after the July 2017 poll, his CNRT (Party for Timorese Reconstruction Party) lost to FRETILIN (Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor) in the earlier election, albeit by a small margin. This forced him into an alliance with sometime rivals to secure the latest poll.

This suggests the people of Timor-Leste trust him, but they are not so happy with his previous government.

Timor-Leste voters sent a wake-up call to their leaders in the recent election. They are asking that the leaders, and most importantly, Gusmao, to continue governing but change their ways.

This all comes after a decade of high level government spending fueled by oil and gas riches. But questions remain. Has Timor-Leste gotten value for their money? Has the government’s spending priorities reflected the wishes and needs of ordinary Timorese voters?

Gusmao is seen as a leader with historical legitimacy, a man who has brought many good things to Timor-Leste since independence.

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He resolved the 2006 political crisis, albeit despite being complicit in precipitating it, compensated petitioners, gave pensions to the veterans, initiated the beginnings of a social safety net for the poor, brought rural businesses into the private sector, brought electricity to the villages, and made many other positive changes.

Maritime victory
Most recently he won a victory for Timor-Leste’s maritime sovereignty with a boundary agreement with Australia although some see the deal as rushed for political expediency ahead of the recent poll.

But, there are complaints that the new government needs to address, and do so quickly in the first year of the new AMP (Alliance of Change and Progress) government.

Firstly, trust must be restored in the country’s leadership and to do that the lifetime pension for politicians needs to end. Office holders must likewise be held accountable through an annual declaration of assets.

Any forms of corruption must be stamped out among the country’s politicians and civil servants.

The people think, rightly, that leaders seek positions in order to make big salaries and look after themselves. Salaries and benefits need to be cut to reasonable levels. If the leaders give up benefits and stop corrupt activities then only then can the leaders ask people to work hard, sweat, and build a better country.

Secondly, the government must strengthen anti-corruption laws and pursue corruptors at all levels in Timorese society, from the remotest mountain village to Government Palace.

Looking ahead, Timor-Leste needs to move beyond its reliance on oil and gas and the government needs to prioritize the needs of the people who also need to become a community that can create wealth rather than just consume it.

Fund getting smaller
The Petroleum Fund was large but it is getting smaller and it will not last forever. Revenues from it could cease as early as 2026.

After ten years the country has built many things, but not enough for the land, human resources and environment. It is no small feat required of the people. We need to change focus.

Timorese are an agricultural people and it is a strength that needs to be prioritised and improved. More resources must be driven into building up the agricultural productivity and diversification. Funds need to be allocated to improving our farmers’ skills and their output so they can move from subsistence agriculture to agri-business.

Ordinary Timorese are not educated enough. Millions and millions have been spent on government scholarships to build the skills of technical experts, but the chiLdren have been left behind. The primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions are underfunded and under prioritised.

The country would rather pay high tuition fees for international universities than improve the education of the 10-year-olds. This needs to stop or there will be a generation of Timorese who cannot contribute to the nation.

The country must change ways in the education sector to protect the future. School feeding programmes need improvement: a hungry child is not a child that can learn well.

The health of the people is poor, they are eating too much sugar and drinking too much beer. Timor-Leste need to dramatically improve public and preventative healthcare. The voters are asking for it.

Better health care
Rural clinics are an embarrassment. The country would rather send the rich and leaders to hospitals in Indonesia and Singapore than improve the standards of the children’s healthcare. It is not right nor is it wise. There can be no prosperity without good healthcare.

Timor-Leste needs to focus on its people in the rural areas. They need improved electricity access, improved rural roads, water and sanitation facilities. Improving these important assets will improve the ability of farmers and rural people to do business, the healthcare standards of people in the mountains and for schools to be where they should.

For sure, highways airports and bridges are important, but there needs to be a refocus on rural communities and their basic infrastructure needs such as water and sanitation.

About 65 percent of Timorese live next to or within sight of the sea. Timor-Leste has been negotiating maritime boundaries with Indonesia and managing new boundaries with Australia. With these boundaries come opportunities and challenges.

Future oil and gas resources need to be protected and developed very carefully. The fisheries can and should be an important source of sustainable income for Timorese for generations to come. The sea can also attract tourists to the coastal regions.

If Timor-Leste can protect and enhance its coastlines, tourists will be enticed to the villages creating jobs and income in a sustainable manner. But the sea can also bring problems. Rising sea levels, disasters, and smuggling. A coordinating ministry of maritime affairs is needed, just as Indonesia has done.

Again, there is much the Timorese need to do and they need to begin work today. The country just needs a trustworthy government to lead the way.

Jose Belo is an investigative journalist, publisher of Tempo Semanal and a commentator based in Dili, Timor-Leste. This article was first published by UCA News.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Bentley Effect doco aims to ‘inspire’ NZ fight against oil, gas exploration

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Bentley Effect doco aims to ‘inspire’ NZ fight against oil, gas exploration

The Bentley Effect … “inspiring celebration of the power of community”. Video: The Bentley Effect Movie

By Kendall Hutt in Auckland

In 2010, gas exploration in Australia’s Northern Rivers region of New South Wales sparked protest and rallied a community into becoming a broad-based social movement.

The exploration by Sydney-based company Metgasco faced a five-year long opposition from the community of Bentley, where a 2km deep well was to be drilled on an old dairy property.

Several weeks before the planned drilling operation in 2014, thousands set up camp on a neighbouring property in a protest which made headlines and was dubbed the Bentley Blockade.

The blockade is the subject of multi award-winning feature-length documentary The Bentley Effect.

The Bentley Blockade … “We don’t want to live in a gas field”. Image: Brendan Shoebridge

“The documentary chronicles my community’s response to the threat of unconventional gas mining and the industrialisation it brings.

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“Although gas mining is the vehicle, it’s more about what community can do when it comes together.

“In this case, the community drew a line in the sand, came together en masse and said ‘No we don’t want to live in a gas field’.

Power of community
“It’s an inspiring celebration of the power of community,” says director Brendan Shoebridge.

Shoebridge has been in New Zealand since late September screening his documentary across the country.

He spoke to Asia Pacific Report ahead of the documentary’s last screening in Auckland at an event organised by Greenpeace, 350 Aotearoa and Fossil Free UoA.

Shoebridge said he hoped the spirit behind The Bentley Effect inspired a similar stand in New Zealand.

“New Zealand’s unique and precious beauty holds a special place in everyone’s hearts and I’m hoping the film will inspire local audiences to keep it safe and pure,” he said.

Asked why this was the case, Shoebridge told Asia Pacific Report it was due to “massive threats” to the country and its “brand”.

These threats included prospecting by New Zealand Oil and Gas in a massive gas field more than 60km off the coast of Oamaru and proposed oil and gas exploration off the coasts of Canterbury and Taranaki in the habitats of endangered Hector’s dolphins and blue whales.

Risk versus profit
“Really the last thing we need is more methane and another fossil fuel industry.

“Locals here have to ask the question ‘Who is going to bear the risk and who is going to take the profit?’ These are the questions we all have to start asking,” he said.

However, Shoebridge said New Zealand’s response to the documentary had been “fantastic” and it seemed to resonate with Kiwi audiences.

“New Zealand has a rich, proud heritage of protest.

“There is so many examples of successful non-violent civil disobedience.

“I think the story really does resonate quite powerfully here” he said.

Shoebridge said The Bentley Effect built on the threat posed by natural gas exploration in Josh Fox’s 2010 documentary Gasland.

Bentley Effect ‘solution’
The Bentley Effect not only showed the problem of exploration, it showed what the world could do about it, he explained.

“What viewers will see is a social movement from start to finish.

“It’s on a smaller, localised scale but what was achieved was a fully-fledged social movement, a broad-based social movement which involved everybody, all walks of life.

Protester Robert Morton … “Don’t gas Bentley Bungabee”. Image: Brendan Shoebridge

“Audiences can see for themselves how people mobilise. How ordinary, everyday people took a lead and made massive contributions in their own way.

“That was a key aim in showcasing what happened in Bentley – communities aren’t powerless, they can push back on these things.”

Shoebridge said at the time of the blockade, 50 wells had already been drilled.

However, due to the broad-based social movement’s opposition, Shoebridge said, the State Government was not prepared to pay the political price, despite earlier being “hell-bent” on pushing its gas plan through.

Exploration licences suspended
In May 2014 the State Government suspended Metgasco’s gas exploration licence and in October 2015 it bought back petroleum exploration licences covering more than 500,000 hectares across the Northern Rivers region.

“To get that overturned and those wells decommissioned and the licences removed was a real achievement,” Shoebridge said.

Shoebridge said Bentley’s stand against big business and its own government had set an “amazing” precedent in the war against natural gas.

“I think a lot of communities around the world will draw strength from what was achieved” he said.

Bentley’s story was also “universal”, Shoebridge said, as similar battles were happening across the globe.  

“These battles are happening everywhere and they’re playing out on all sorts of different fronts, but it’s essentially the same battle.

“When people come and see the film, I think they are drawing a lot of strength and probably seeing that the same strategies can be superimposed onto any of our battles, whether it’s the fight for clean water against big dairy, 1080, fluoridation, or logging.”

Youth involvement key
Shoebridge said a “big chunk” of the solution in battling such environmental and social injustice issues was people taking a lead with their skill set in their landscape.

“I think if everyone did that we’d smash our problems pretty quickly.”

Youth have a particular role in “smashing” problems in a world where political will on “climate chaos” was lacking, Shoebridge added.

“From our experience politicians don’t respond to education they only respond to pressure.

“That’s where the youth can come in. They can talk from the heart and talk about what it feels like to have your future robbed from you.

“Naturally the youth are going to feel varying degrees of despair and powerlessness, but we can’t afford to give up hope and we mustn’t.

“Anything that tops up their tanks and inspires meaningful action is a good thing,” Shoebridge said.

Although his work is largely about hope, Shoebridge warned the world needed to come together in order to face the “tough times” ahead.

“I know we all have to start thinking in terms of a global village rather than national borders because we’re all in this together and we’re all going to pay the same price if we don’t meet those challenges.”

The Bentley Effect screens tomorrow 4pm to 7pm at LibB28 at the University of Auckland and includes a Q+A with Shoebridge and key members of the documentary.

Protester Jarmbi of the Githabul … “community drew a line” before police. Image: Brendan Shoebridge

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PNG’s InterOil shareholders agree to ExxonMobil buy out

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: PNG’s InterOil shareholders agree to ExxonMobil buy out

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

The majority of shareholders approve ExxonMobil Corporation’s takeover of InterOil in Papua New Guinea. Image: EMTV

Papua New Guinea’s InterOil shareholders agree to ExxonMobil acquisition; gender-based violence stakeholders condemn GBV deaths; and Sirinum Dam closure soon to affect Port Moresby residents are the headlines in the latest EMTV News.

InterOil Corporation announced that the majority of shareholders had “overwhelmingly approved” the acquisition of the company by ExxonMobil Corporation, LNG Industry reports.

InterOil interests in Papua New Guinea. Graphic: InterOil

The company claims that more than 91 percent of the votes were cast in favour of the proposed transaction.

The acquisition is worth kina 7 billion (about NZ$3.05 billion), reports EM TV.

On 21 September 2016, just 80 percent voted to approve the original transaction in a special meeting.

In the statement, InterOil claims that the court hearing in which InterOil is seeking a final order over the Amended and Restated Plan of Arrangement is currently scheduled for next week on February 20.

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InterOil is an independent oil and gas business, which has a sole focus on Papua New Guinea.

The company’s assets include Elk-Antelope – one of Asia’s largest and undeveloped gas fields – in the Gulf Province, as well as exploration licences covering approximately 16,000 sq km.

The company’s main offices are in Port Moresby and Singapore.

InterOil Corporation