Oil, gas exploration move a 'kick in the guts' for Taranaki - mayor

The Labour Government has stopped permits for onshore oil and gas exploration

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Thursday that the government will "no longer be granting any new offshore oil and gas exploration permits".

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's media release put it like this: "The coalition government is taking an important step to address climate change and create a clean, green and sustainable future for New Zealand". The country is far from a major oil producer, which will probably facilitate its transition to a carbon-neutral economy by 2050, before that achieving 100 percent renewable power generation by 2035.

The ban will not affect existing licenses or onshore exploration, meaning the industry will continue unabated for years to come. "Just as New Zealand did in 1987 when it went nuclear-free and stood up to the powerful U.S. military, this has shown bold global leadership on the greatest challenge of our time - putting people ahead of the interests of oil corporations and the hunt for fossil fuels that are driving risky climate change", Norman continued.

On the face of it, the decision to ban new offshore exploration permits will have little effect on our use of oil and gas.

WWF-New Zealand CEO Livia Esterhazy hopes the announcement will spur renewable energy investment from oil and gas industries.

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"It is our chance for New Zealand to play a leading role to help make a better world".

Greenpeace New Zealand was on the vanguard of highlighting the risks of offshore oil exploration and drilling when in 2011 it formed an alliance with East Cape iwi, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, and mobilised a flotilla to protest seismic blasting for deep sea oil by Brazilian oil company, Petrobras, who subsequently abandoned the initial survey and then surrendered their permit altogether.

The Government will continue offering onshore Taranaki for exploration, and will not revoke existing exploration contracts.

"The tide has turned irreversibly against Big Oil in New Zealand", Norman added.

New Plymouth mayor Neil Holdom said the decision was "a kick in the guts" for the Taranaki region.

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The National Party's energy and climate change spokespeople, Jonathan Young and Todd Muller, described the government's decision as "economic vandalism" that would "ensure the demise of an industry that provides over 8000 high paying jobs and $2.5 billion for the economy".

"This decision is devoid of any rationale".

Angus Rodger, a research director at consultancy Wood Mackenzie, said New Zealand's move was "a bold step".

"We note that the announcement is a sudden change of policy, which has not been consulted on and appears to conflict with the government's pre-election promises", it said in a statement. "These changes will simply shift production elsewhere in the world, not reduce emissions", he said.

"No current jobs will be affected by this, as we are honouring all agreements with current permit holders", she said.

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The last of these permits ends in 2030 and the right to apply for a mining permit based on a commercial discovery is unchanged.

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