New Zealand bans new offshore oil and gas exploration

Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern with Regional Development Minister Shane Jones left and Green Party co-leader James Shaw

Ending future oil and gas exploration is a huge move, one that was anticipated by many following the Government's rhetoric on climate change, but which still came as a surprise to some.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's media release put it like this: "The coalition government is taking an important step to address climate change and create a clean, green and sustainable future for New Zealand".

Her government, elected previous year, has ambitious goals of generating all power in New Zealand from renewable sources by 2035 and becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

The Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New Zealand said the government's decision is a "lose-lose for New Zealand's economy and environment, likely to threaten jobs" and would "mean higher prices for consumers".

The ban will not affect 50 existing oil permits, or any onshore oil drilling plans, meaning the country could continue to produce oil for over a decade. She said in the Facebook video in making this decision, she considered ensuring security of supply; job security, especially for places where jobs center around the fossil fuel industry; and meeting their obligations and ambitions around tackling climate change.

However, she says stopping all oil and gas exploration immediately would be unfair to the workers in the industry and their families.

Ms. Ardern explained that she hoped New Zealand's electricity system could rely completely on renewable power resources by 2035.

Although welcomed by the previous government, foreign oil companies have met strong resistance from the New Zealand public, Indigenous communities, and environmental NGOs.

New Zealand Oil & Gas this week acquired a 25% interest in an onshore exploration opportunity in Taranaki, which will be drilled in the fourth quarter this year (subject to regulatory consents).

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Greenpeace New Zealand executive director Russel Norman said: "Globally, the writing is on the wall for the oil industry".

"The measures will be a big help, but we do not agree with the continued issue of block offers for exploration for oil and gas on land".

But New Zealand National Party MP Jonathan Young described the move as "economic vandalism".

New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom told Radio New Zealand the move was a "kick in the guts for the future of the Taranaki economy".

"This decision is devoid of any rationale".

Woods said that existing exploration and mining rights would be protected.

Image: New Zealand will not issue any new offshore oil and gas exploration permits in its waters. It certainly has nothing to do with climate change. "These changes will simply shift production elsewhere in the world, not reduce emissions", he said. "No current jobs will be affected by this as we are honouring all agreements with current permit holders", Ardern said.

The last of these permits ends in 2030 and the right to apply for a mining permit based on a commercial discovery is unchanged. New Zealand has stood up to one of the most powerful industries in the world.

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