Oil and gas ban a 'death sentence' for Taranaki - Duncan Garner

Duncan Garner says the Prime Minister needs to get on a plane to Taranaki to front up to the community he says has been dealt a "death sentence".

Jacinda Ardern and Megan Woods, Minister of Energy and Resources, announced on Thursday morning there would be no more permits offered for offshore oil and gas exploration.

Garner says Ms Ardern had "put pressure on herself" to do something, after calling climate change her generation's "nuclear-free moment" last year.

"It had to happen really, didn't it?" he asked viewers of The AM Show. "If you say that, you've got to do something."

The decision doesn't affect existing permits, some of which run for another two decades, but Garner says it puts 10,000 jobs and the entire industry at risk.

"It will slowly just die out. Jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs - we're not sure what the fallout will be of course, but these are high-paying jobs - 10,000 people in the industry, average wage is $100,000. This is a death sentence for the industry in Taranaki. There's no chance of a fancy lawyer and an appeal because there's no appeal court here."

Duncan Garner.
Duncan Garner. Photo credit: The AM Show

The Government says there only 3900 people directly employed in the fossil fuel industry in Taranaki, and the transition will be slow enough that other, greener jobs will emerge in their place.

"No one that has woken up this morning to this news that is currently employed in this industry has any reason to think their job is going to disappear overnight," Ms Woods told him. "It is exactly the opposite."

That didn't deter Garner, who said it also puts the Government's already tight budget in a precarious place.

"The Prime Minister needs to explain what happens next, she needs to explain how we fill the gap in terms of income. This thing will raise $20 billion by 2025 - or will it? Will these companies walk away? Will taxes go up to pay for the hip operations the oil paid for?"

According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, oil and gas royalties earned the country $193 million in the year to June 2016 - half of what made just four years before. Industry group PEPANZ says it contributes about $500 million a year in royalties and taxes.

Garner says Ms Ardern needs to drop her existing plans and get on a plane to Taranaki today. She presently has plans to make it down in May.

"You're going to go down there later in May, you say. Later in May? What about today and what about tomorrow? They want to hear from you, Prime Minister. It's a big move, I'd get on the plane a bit earlier."

Ms Ardern will later this week get on a plane, but she'll be heading to the other side fo the world for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London.

Big and bold - and real

Despite his concerns about the effect it might have on  the local economy and the Government's coffers, Garner acknowledged it was a "big and bold" move.

"It won't save the planet, but its' a baby step to save the planet. It's a bold stamp and New Zealand can say,' Hey, we did this.' Because from today we are doing this. It's more than symbolism because it's real."

The only other countries that have made comparable moves to roll back fossil fuel exploration are Belize, Costa Rica and France.

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