Deep sea drilling would continue under a Labour Government, but with more safety regulations in case it goes "very very wrong", Labour's energy and resources spokesman David Shearer said this morning.
Mr Shearer appeared on The Nation this morning to talk about Labour's oil drilling policy.
"We support oil drilling [and] we have done in the past, there's no major change there," he said.
"What we want to see is a regime very much like in Norway where there is good processes of approval, there's tight regulations ... a regime for making sure that money is used well, and at the same time making sure our transition to renewable [energy] goes [ahead]."
Ultimately, fossil fuels were "out" and not sustainable for the future, but New Zealand could use them to transition to renewables, he said.
Mr Shearer said a Labour Government would make improvements to safety measures and increase local involvement.
"[Currently] we do not have New Zealanders overseeing the exploratory rigs doing the drilling. We should have our own people on the ground."
Equipment to respond to an oil spill had to be on site and ready to go in case of an accident, he said.
However, Anadarko's current oil clean-up plan would take at least a month to plug a leak, and 115 days for a rig to arrive.
Asked whether drilling was acceptable under those circumstances, Mr Shearer dodged the question, instead drawing parallels with the airline industry.
"It's very very safe, but when it goes wrong, it goes very very wrong. And what we want to have is an Air New Zealand rather than an Air Togo."
Following a fruitless summer of oil exploration, Mr Shearer was asked whether the $12 billion oil drilling industry touted by National was "a mirage".
"It's anybody's guess," he said.
"Putting all our cards on the table and say 'our economic development is going to depend on the discovery of oil' is nonsense. It's like walking into a casino and hoping the ball lands on number 36."
Royalties could be raised when more oil was discovered, but hiking them now would "kill the industry", he said.
Mr Shearer said the policy wouldn't affect a potential coalition with the Green Party.
His comments come amid National Party plans to allow oil and gas drilling in a marine sanctuary, home to the critically endangered Maui 's dolphin.