No more oil exploration permits

  • Updated
  • 12/04/2018

The Government has ruled out new permits for offshore oil and gas exploration.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she will no longer issue block offers to combat climate change and create a sustainable future.

"There will be no further offshore oil and gas exploration permits granted," said Ms Ardern.

"We are protecting existing exploration and mining rights. No current jobs will be affected by this as we are honouring all agreements with current permit holders."

This year's permit process will be limited to onshore acreage in Taranaki alone. Presently there are 31 active permits for oil and gas, 22 of them offshore. Some last until 2030.

"Today we are providing certainty for industry and communities so they can plan for the future," said Ms Ardern. "We are making careful and considered changes over time and supporting communities with a managed transition.

"We will be working with the Taranaki community and businesses in particular on this as a long term project and I will be visiting myself later in May to underline this Government's commitment to ensuring there is a just transition to a clean energy future."

Jacinda Ardern.
Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Getty

In the election campaign, Ms Ardern called climate change her generation's "nuclear-free moment", referencing New Zealand's bold decision in the 1980s to stay nuclear-free.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said it was "scaremongering" to suggest the move would cost jobs and economic growth.

"While it will undoubtedly pose challenges, it also provides opportunity through investment in new technology and new industries."

Greenpeace welcomed the move, calling it a "historic moment, and a huge win for our climate and people power".

Russel Norman, who used to co-lead the Green Party and is now Greenpeace executive director, said the "fourth-largest exclusive economic zone on the planet is out of bounds for new fossil fuel exploitation".

"New Zealand has stood up to one of the most powerful industries in the world… Bold global leadership on the greatest challenge of our time has never been more urgent, and Ardern has stepped up to that climate challenge."

Conservation group WWF New Zealand said it was a "landmark moment" that will help the survival of the endangered Maui's dolphin.

"They live only off the west coast of the North Island, and over 30 percent of their habitat is already open for oil exploration," said CEO Livia Esterhazy. "Seismic blasting for oil can both have physical impacts on dolphins and cause long-term behavioural changes."

ACT, on the other hand, called it a "lose-lose" situation.

"The oil and gas industry creates thousands of jobs, contributes $2.5 billion to the New Zealand economy and $500 million to the Government in royalties each year," said leader David Seymour.

 "Not only will this policy make us poorer as a country, it will drive production of oil and gas overseas which will harm the environment."

David Seymour.
David Seymour. Photo credit: Getty

He said the "dangerous and arrogant" decision would also cost the country 11,000 jobs.

New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom called the decision a "kick in the guts" for the Taranaki economy.

"While we all want to see a more sustainable future for New Zealand, we had expected to be having a comprehensive conversation about a planned and staged transition to a low carbon economy over the next 20 to 30 years with central Government, local government, iwi, the industry and other stakeholders actively contributing."

He said the "Crown pockets more than $300 million a year from Taranaki oil and gas royalties and our national electricity infrastructure and economy continues to rely on natural gas to keep the lights on across the nation".