New Zealand opens up park for oil and gas exploration

it's not just Ecuador that is gambling with the future of its parks for oil.  As ALERT member Craig Morley reports, New Zealand is getting in on the act too:

Not happy in New Zealand...

Not happy in New Zealand...

The New Zealand Government is opening up over 4,600 square kilometers of conservation land for petroleum exploration.  This land is on the West Coast region of the South Island and includes almost all of Victoria Forest Park, the largest forest park of its type in the country.  

Victoria Forest Park is not a National Park per se, but rather a 'Schedule 4 Forest Park'.  However, the New Zealand Department of Conservation describes it as having untouched pristine landscapes with rivers, lakes, and mountain scenery, as well as pristine beech forest.  Great spotted kiwi, an iconic species unique to New Zealand, can also be heard at night.

Pristine forest... home to Kiwis and lots more

Pristine forest... home to Kiwis and lots more

The Green Party says the Energy Minister should be embarrassed for failing to realize he's offered up conservation land for petroleum exploration.  When interviewed, the Energy Minister, Simon Bridges, didn’t even know where the Victoria Forest Park was located. 

Big areas being opened up for potential petroleum development...

Big areas being opened up for potential petroleum development...

The last few years have seen major protests against mining-exploration activity on land administered by the Department of Conservation.  The key question is: will this trend of exploring Forest Parks for fossil fuels continue, and will our hunger for energy “accidentally expand” into our treasured National Parks as well?  

Ecuador, China in shady deal to exploit Amazon nature reserve

Talk about double-dealing.  While pressuring the world to pay it a fortune not to drill for oil in its iconic Yasuni National Park, Ecuador was secretly cooking up a $1 billion deal with China--to drill for oil at Yasuni!

Giant river otters frolic at Yasuni--for now at least

Giant river otters frolic at Yasuni--for now at least

Yasuni is often called the 'jewel of the Amazon'--arguably one of the most important national parks in the world, and quite possibly the most biologically diverse. 

The park also overlays sizable petroleum deposits, estimated at 840 million barrels.  To agree not to construct roads and drilling facilities in the park, Ecuador's president Rafael Correa wanted donors to pony up $3.6 billion.

Not surprisingly, that figure was ultimately too much for the international community to raise, although over $300 million was committed by various donors.  So, in August 2013, Correa unilaterally canceled the no-drill-for-cash offer.

Many were upset by the outcome, including actor Leonardo DiCaprio.  But it turns out it was probably just a faux deal anyway--a way for Correa to provide himself with political cover for his decision to drill away at Yasuni. 

As badly as this reflects on Correa, China doesn't come out looking good either--although experienced observers won't be surprised.  As we've seen again and again, China can be highly predatory in pursuing the natural resources it wants.  

Sadly, one of the world's most important parks will suffer for it.