Climate activists force New Plymouth oil and gas conference online due to threat of protest

Climate activists have forced an oil and gas conference in New Plymouth online, due to the "significant threat" of protest.

Resources Minister Shane Jones has dismissed what he calls "eco-rabble", calling protesters hypocrites for shutting it down.

An estimated 20,000 protesters marched through Auckland on Saturday to protest the Government's Fast-track Approvals Bill - which they say would harm the environment.

Climate activists then threatened to disrupt the Energy Resources Taranaki forum on Wednesday.

350 Aotearoa campaigner Adam Currie said they knew there would be hundreds of people blockading the conference standing arm-to-arm with each other against fossil fuels.

"They don't want that image, they want to be seen as reputable companies doing fossil fuels exploration," he said.

Energy Resource Aotearoa has confirmed the forum would be online only.

In a statement it said safety was its top priority for attendees and the planned blockade of the forum presented a real threat to all those involved.

It said the decision was not taken lightly, but it was the best course of action to guarantee the safety of attendees and staff.

Jones was due to speak at the conference.

"The fact that these protesting barnacles don't want an open dialogue, I think, speaks to the weakness of their argument and fear that I'm winning the hearts and minds of Kiwis over," he said.

The Fast-track Bill would expedite the approvals process for infrastructure, housing and development projects.

Critics fear the Bill would give three Government ministers unprecedented power to override environmental protections.

On Sunday, Jones doubled down, announcing the Government was also ending a ban on petroleum exploration off Taranaki.

"My message to the oil and gas industry is you have a champion in Matua Shane Jones. Stand with me and we'll put this eco-rabble to sleep," Jones said.

The Labour Party's energy spokesperson Megan Woods said Jones, and the Government, were out of step.

"They are not taking New Zealanders with them. And you add to that Shane Jones is out there trying to rile up people and seems to be enjoying that protests are coming out. It's about time we had a Government that stopped the pantomime," she said.

Opponents of the Fast-track Bill were also appealing directly to MPs, who were continuing to hear submissions at Parliament.

The deputy chair of Rangitāne o Wairarapa Trust Amber Craig told MPs she found it ironic that she was again standing up to a Bill that would strip whanau, hapu and iwi identity.

"If you destroy our whenua, if you destroy our waterways, if you destroy our airways, if you destroy our ecosystems, you won't have any money. You'll be burying your future generations, alongside ours," she said.

Protest leaders said they would continue to disrupt until the Government listens.