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Business

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Oil sector to rethink public relations

Last updated 05:00 20/09/2012

HAMISH RUTHERFORD

The Government needs to do a better job of selling the oil industry to the public, executives have told an industry conference facing waves of protest action.

The two-day New Zealand Petroleum Summit began in Wellington yesterday, but within an hour Energy Minister Phil Heatley was forced to briefly stop his speech after disruption from protesters.

A group of young women managed to enter the conference room of the Amora Hotel and handed out pamphlets while quietly chanting before being escorted out, conference delegates said.

Another group of about 70 protesters gathered outside last night as delegates attended a cocktail function sponsored by Halliburton.

Halliburton is a global oilfield services company that activists said had profited from the United States' war in Iraq.

Protest spokeswoman Frances Mountier said the cost of a "just transition" away from using non-renewable resources should be borne by those who have profited from them.

A panel session yesterday afternoon asked sector figures whether increased scrutiny of the industry and protest had changed the way they did business.

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Paul Foley, a lawyer who has served on the board of NZ Oil & Gas for more than a decade, said new scrutiny "absolutely" influenced the way the company did business, prompting increased engagement with the communities in which it operated.

But Foley said the Government, which had promoted New Zealand as a place to explore for oil and gas, needed to do more to convince the country of the attractiveness of exploration.

"The Government has a role in convincing New Zealand that business is good for New Zealand and this business is good for New Zealand."

Nick Hallett, chief adviser in the resources policy unit of the business, innovation and employment ministry, said Taranaki, the home of New Zealand's oil industry, had done a good job of promoting the sector locally.

Although the Government had published figures on what an oil industry could do for other areas, a way of convincing the wider country might be "getting Taranaki to go and speak to other councils".

- The Dominion Post

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