Oil Free Wellington is a grassroots climate justice group campaigning against fossil fuel exploration within Aotearoa New Zealand. We began when the Texan oil giant, Anadarko, was granted permits to explore for oil in the Pegasus Basin off the coast of Wellington in 2012. Since then Oil
Free Wellington has been raising awareness, holding demonstrations, public discussions, and taking direct action to make our opposition clear and to demonstrate our solidarity with communities facing similar struggles.
System Change not Climate Change
Integral to the group is the concept of climate justice and a commitment to direct action and community organising. Climate justice recognises climate change as a symptom of the unjust power structures which exist today. As such, effective and fair action addressing the root causes of climate change will require system change.
Climate Justice recognises that underdeveloped or poor countries and peoples, especially indigenous peoples, small farming-based communities and women, will be and already are the hardest hit by the effects of climate change. However, the vast majority of historical responsibility for climate change lies with rich people, businesses and industrialised countries. Any solutions to climate change need the support of those most affected by climate change and should not perpetuate the current gross social and economic inequality. For example, while the Green Economy concept may reduce emissions on a spreadsheet it also maintains the current power structures which have caused climate change.
Taking direct action to stop the expansion of fossil fuels is a necessary and important first step towards a just and sustainable world. Attempts to achieve change through regulation and parliamentary process have failed, and have been failing since climate change became a political issue in the 1980s. With estimates that only a quarter of current fossil fuel reserves can be burnt, while retaining a chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change, fossil fuel exploration cannot be allowed to continue. While wider social and structural change needs to occur, direct action can be used right now as part of a tool kit to stop fossil fuel companies.
Some Actions by Oil Free Wellington
In 2014 Oil Free Wellington was involved in a wide number of actions on shore and in the harbour to demonstrate clear opposition to fossil fuel exploration.
At the start of the year we took actions to give a message directly to the companies exploring for oil. When an oil surveying ship was in port, members got into the water and attached a banner to the ship to tell the company to “expect resistance.” This was followed a day later by a protest of hundreds outside Anadarko’s Wellington offices in the CBD. The next time the survey vessel was in port, a member got past harbour security to deliver a trespass notice to the ship’s captain which had been signed by hundreds of Wellingtonians.
During the second half of the year our actions targeted those in Parliament supporting the exploration of fossil fuels. During the National Party’s Annual Conference two banners were hung on the City to Sea Bridge in Wellington to welcome conference attendees, reminding the Energy and Resources Minister who had recently opened a whale and dolphin sanctuary to exploration, that “Extinction is Forever.” And, at the end of the year, we demonstrated our opposition to the announcement of more exploration permits by physically blocking the entrance to the Ministry responsible, the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.