Government offering secondhand land for oil and gas exploration

Each year the Government opens thousands of square kilometres across the country (file)
Each year the Government opens thousands of square kilometres across the country (file)

It's been revealed thousands of square kilometres of seabed offered up for oil and gas exploration next year has been explored before, and nothing found.

It comes as Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett attends the 22nd UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, where environmental advocates have renewed calls to halt the expansion of fossil fuels.

Documents released to Newshub show 38 percent of the Government's 2017 block offer has previously been explored. Ninety-seven percent of the area has been offered up before in previous block offers.

Each year the Government opens thousands of square kilometres across the country, both onshore and offshore, for companies to bid for permits to explore for oil and gas.

Today tenders closed for the 508,691 square kilometre block offer 2017, which was opposed by Dunedin, Auckland and Canterbury councils.

Minister of Energy and Resources Simon Bridges says there was nothing unusual about offering up previously explored territory for tenders.

"If it's offered in the past and looked over by a company, we will tend to continue to offer that area for exploration," Mr Bridges says.

Green Party energy spokesman Gareth Hughes says that's laughable.

"I think it's like a used-car salesman - he's basically tried to slap a coat of paint on it and call it something new."

Mr Hughes says the Government is trying to repackage the block offer to look like it's got answers to economic development.

"When really, it needs to turn away from this oil agenda."

Mr Bridges says he is a "relentless advocate" for electric vehicles, but  acknowledges the transition away from fossil fuels will be gradual.

"I'm realistic enough to know normal petrol cars are here for some time to come. The transition will take a long time - I'd love it if we could click our fingers but that's not the reality, and it would be economically incredibly disruptive for us."

Mr Hughes says the Government doesn't have a plan to transition.

"We've got more than enough fossil fuels to fry the planet a few times over. According to scientists we can’t afford to burn 80 percent of the stuff we've already found, let alone the Government using tax breaks and subsidies to try and find more."

He says New Zealand could electrify its transport fleet and get close to 100 percent renewable electricity, which could grow jobs and businesses selling to overseas customers who want clean energy-derived products.

"Sadly because the Emissions Trading Scheme has been a farce, there's almost no political will or leadership."

Mr Bridges says a point that is lost on the Green Party and green NGOs is that not all fossil fuels are created equal.

"Coal has most emissions, we need to phase that out faster, but gas as a transition fuel has a real role to play in helping fight climate change because it means countries throughout Asia, and also America and Europe, are able to move away from heavier fossil to fuels to cleaner-burning fuel that has under half the emissions."