Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Government is "actively considering" a ban on oil and gas exploration in New Zealand.
A Greenpeace petition, signed by 45,000 people, was presented to Parliament on Monday calling for an end to oil exploration, drilling and seismic testing.
Ms Ardern made a surprise appearance to accept the petition and make a speech, asking people to give the Government more time to decide whether to introduce a ban.
"I'm meant to be supporting a state lunch for one of our international guests, but it was important to be here," she said.
"It was important to stand in front of you and do what Governments should do and be held to account on the toughest decisions that we face as a nation but also as a world."
Ms Ardern said the Government knows it needs to make a decision, weighing up the environmental impact with the need for a just transition.
She said it's about "making sure that we take people with us in every form: socially, economically in terms of their employments and their futures”.
"I ask now for a bit more time - we're working hard on this issue and we know it's something that we can't afford to spend much time on. But we are actively considering it now."
The Prime Minister was accompanied by Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods and Climate Change Minister James Shaw.
She thanked the people who signed and presented the petition and told them "you are our conscience".
Kiwi film directors Taika Waititi and Jane Campion, Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull, Victoria University Vice Chancellor Grant Guilford and climate professor James Renwick are among those who signed the petition.
The Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New Zealand (PEPANZ) previously responded to the Greenpeace petition calling the proposed ban a "lose-lose for New Zealand and the global climate".
It said a ban would simply shift production overseas and New Zealand would miss out on the economic benefits and rely on imported fuel which would create higher net emissions and result in higher prices.
PEPANZ CEO Cameron Madgwick said: "Natural gas and oil provide half of the world’s energy and this is forecast to continue for decades to come. While more sources of energy are being developed there is no realistic way they can cover this demand in the immediate future.
"We need to have a serious discussion on how to lower our net emissions while meeting a growing demand for energy in an economically and environmentally rational way. Turning off half of our energy supply is just not a realistic solution."
Last year France became the first country in the world to announce a ban on oil and gas exploration. It prohibited new permits, and all current oil and gas permits will expire by 2040.
It will introduce a ban on petrol and diesil vehicles in the same year.