New Zealand pulls the plug on offshore oil

New Zealand pulls the plug on offshore oil

The Government has ceased offering new offshore oil and gas exploration permits and restricted permitting to just onshore Taranaki targets, a definitive move to transitioning away from fossil fuel extraction.

"(We are) taking an important step to address climate change and create a clean, green and sustainable future for New Zealand", Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

"New Zealand has taken an historic step and delivered a massive breakthrough for the climate, spurred on by the tens of thousands of people who have fought for years to protect our coasts from new oil and gas exploration", said Greenpeace New Zealand Executive Director, Dr Russel Norman.

"In each of the last two years only one permit has been granted for offshore oil and gas exploration", she said.

The oil and gas industry accounts for only about 1.4 percent of New Zealand's economy, but the furore underscored the challenge faced by Labour - which has a support arrangement with the Green Party - in winning over the business sector.

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In total, there are 31 now active oil and gas exploration permits in New Zealand with nine of them being onshore. "We're striking the right balance for New Zealand - we're protecting existing industry, and protecting future generations from climate change", Ardern said.

The government said there were now 31 oil and gas exploration permits, with 22 of them offshore.

It added that more than 11,000 people work in the oil and gas industries during "peak times", and that jobs would be affected given that companies had made "huge" investments anticipating offshore "block offers", which would not be made under the government's announcement.

The decision sparked a snap debate in Parliament in which Opposition MPs sought to portray the government's coalition partner, New Zealand First, as a reluctant participant in the decision, despite Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones stoutly defending the policy as necessary if the country was to make serious efforts to prepare for a low-carbon future.

Norman says today's announcement means, "the tide has turned irreversibly against Big Oil in New Zealand".

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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".

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

"This decision is devoid of any rationale. These changes will simply shift production elsewhere in the world, not reduce emissions", he said. New Zealand has stood up to one of the most powerful industries in the world.

The announcement does not apply to onshore exploration permits.

Ardern said that by signaling the eventual end to exploration, the government is giving the industry and gas users like Methanex Corp. and Fonterra Cooperative Group ample notice to develop new technologies and invest in fresh directions.

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"But nonetheless this is still a very significant decision and I think it will be globally significant".

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