New Zealand halts future oil and gas offshore exploration permits

NZ brings an end to offshore licensing

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

Ardern, who campaigned heavily on preventing climate change in the run-up to last year's tight election, said the decision was a responsible step and provided certainty for businesses and communities. 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 Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New Zealand, lobby group, PEPANZ, and its member oil and gas companies, has feigned surprise but they can not have been surprised, given the various parties' pre-election commitments".

The move will not affect existing permits for exploration or extraction, meaning the industry is likely to continue in the nation for several more decades. She said in the Facebook video in making this decision, she considered ensuring security of supply; job security, especially for places where jobs center around the fossil fuel industry; and meeting their obligations and ambitions around tackling climate change.

"Thousands of households in Taranaki depend on the oil and gas industry and 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", he said.

She said there would also be limited new on-shore permits around the North Island's Taranaki region, where most of New Zealand industry is concentrated.

New Zealand exports about $1.1 billion worth of oil per year, less than it imports, according to The New York Times.

National Party Bay of Plenty MP and climate change spokesperson Todd Muller says the decision makes no sense - environmentally or economically - because less gas production means more coal being burnt and higher carbon emissions.

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Jobs are unlikely to be lost tomorrow, but some companies will decide additional investment is better spent elsewhere while others may avoid New Zealand altogether.

"This decision is devoid of any rationale".

"Industry interest in New Zealand oil and gas is actually higher now than it has been for a number of years", Rodger said, pointing to recent investments by companies such as Austria's OMV Group and Malaysia's Sapura Energy. "It certainly has nothing to do with climate change", Young said.

But Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said it was a "development opportunity", because existing permit holders would continue to be able to apply for extensions.

Woods said that existing exploration and mining rights would be protected.

Last month, Ms Ardern's personal acceptance of a 50,000-signature Greenpeace petition telegraphed an announcement.

Industry group Petroleum Exploration and Production NZ (PEPANZ) said it had been blindsided by the announcement and had not been consulted by the government.

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