SWAN Exhibitions held yet another successful oil and gas exhibition and conference in New Plymouth, New Zealand, in late October.

Ever since 1993, the biennial event has always attracted a wide range of national and international exhibitors, as well some well-known New Zealand and overseas speakers.

The 2014 New Zealand Oil & Gas Exhibition & Conference was no different.

Though small by international standards, the two-day event, this year sponsored by KBC, remains an important part of the New Zealand energy industry.

This year’s event attracted about 30 per cent more exhibitors than the 2012 expo did, though numbers attending the associated conference were down slightly.

Expo and conference organiser David Murphy said the main focus of this year’s event was environmental responsibility and health and safety awareness — topics that were particularly relevant for Australia and New Zealand with their recently established NOPSEMA and Environmental Protection Agency government organisations.

Keynote speaker Lucy Muir, environment manager for S2V Consulting, told of the lessons learned since 2012 regarding several environmentally sensitive offshore Australian regions. Preparatory work for seismic surveys or exploration drilling should involve early engagement with affected parties, environmental impact assessments, and containment and clean-up plans for any unlikely spills or unauthorised discharges.

She said there were “some crazy concerns, but some very valid” regarding possible affects on marine mammals, fisheries and shore ecosystems.

Working with and gaining approval from NOPSEMA could take a year or longer. There was also a need for on-going consultation, liaison and compromise.

“The goalposts may move, a change of focus… it’s definitely been a learning curve… but it’s definitely for the better for the industry.”

The New Plymouth District Council’s strategy manager, Liam Hodges, echoed similar sentiments for onshore oil and gas activity, saying early industry engagement with affected parties and relevant government authorities, as well as clear, concise and consistent communication, were necessary.

He added that the New Plymouth, Stratford and South Taranaki district council, as well as the Taranaki Regional Council, were working “to streamline” the various different resource consent procedures, and other necessary regulations – a move that the oil and gas companies involved in onshore or near-shore exploration and production will welcome.

DuPont sustainable solutions manager for Australia, Andrew Wilson, said driving positive culture change in any workplace was key to improving safety and efficiencies.

Discipline in all areas of a business – from effectively managing people, plans, operations and maintenance, to managing compliance and emergency procedures – was essential in driving that change, particularly for those businesses operating in hazardous environments.

“Waiting for the cavalry to arrive won’t really work, particularly for offshore incidents.”

Finally, there was the expected, almost obligatory, environmental protest, with about 26 chanting and placard–waving people arriving outside the expo venue, the TSB Stadium, about midday on the first day.

After a while police escorted the protestors, led by the Climate Justice Taranaki organisation, away from the stadium.

Event manager David Murphy later said that Swan Exhibitions, exhibitors and delegates respected people’s right to peacefully protest, as he hoped they respected the industry’s right to hold such events.

So it was particularly appropriate the expo and conference concentrated on best environmental and health and safety practices and technologies.