Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has banned future offshore oil and gas exploration in New Zealand.

The only exploration likely to be contemplated by the new Government is on-shore exploration, limited to energy-rich Taranaki.

"We're protecting industry and protecting future generations from climate change," said Ardern.

"This is a responsible step, which provides certainty for businesses and communities that rely on fossil fuels."

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The more than 30 existing permits, 22 for offshore oil and gas exploration, are unaffected by today's announcement, Energy Minister Megan Woods said. If those permits, which cover 100,000sq km are continued or taken up, exploration will continue for more than a decade.

Ardern and the ministers are expected to outline plans for their version of a managed transition towards a carbon-neutral economy by 2050 and a goal of achieving 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2035.

The Government had already postponed any decision about lock offers this year - a competitive way by which oil and gas exploration permits have been issued for the past few years.

And Ardern personally accepted a Greenpeace petition at Parliament this month to ban all oil and gas exploration.

But some had been holding out hope that the Government would still accept bids for exploration on a case-by-case basis.

Today's decision put paid to those hopes.

National leader Simon Bridges, a former Energy Minister, described Ardern as "reckless" last month for suggesting an end to oil and gas exploration in New Zealand.

He also described Ardern's decision to receive the Greenpeace petition as a "political stunt".

"There's a world of difference between changes to block offer and ending all new oil and gas exploration," he said.

"What matters is the words you use. Prime ministers can't be loose with these things. It has a chilling effect. There are thousands of people with jobs here, don't be reckless like that."

Act Leader David Seymour has said any ban on oil and gas exploration would put 11,000 jobs at risk and could harm the environment.

The oil and gas industry created thousands of jobs, contributed $2.5 billion to the New Zealand economy and $500 million to the Government in royalties each year, he said.

"Not only would a ban on exploration make us poorer as a country, it would drive production of oil and gas overseas, which will harm the environment."

Environment groups, however, have hailed the decision.

"Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Coalition Government have taken an historic step and delivered a huge win for the climate, spurred on by the tens of thousands of people and environmental NGOs like Greenpeace who have fought for years to end new oil and gas exploration," Greenpeace's Russel Norman said.

"Today's announcement is significant internationally too.

"By ending new oil and gas exploration in our waters, the fourth largest Exclusive Economic Zone on the planet is out of bounds for new fossil fuel exploitation. New Zealand has stood up to one of the most powerful industries in the world."

WWF-New Zealand chief executive Livia Esterhazy said the move was welcome news for critically endangered Maui dolphins.

"They live only off the west coast of the North Island, and over 30 per cent of their habitat is already open for oil exploration," she said.

"Seismic blasting for oil can both have physical impacts on dolphins and cause long-term behavioural changes.

"Today's announcement is good news for our ocean life, for our children, and for their children."

Forest and Bird chief executive Kevin Hague said: "Keeping New Zealand's oil and gas in the ground reduces everyone's risk, and tells the world we're serious about reducing our contribution to climate change."

The reaction

• "This is truly the nuclear-free moment of our generation, and the beginning of a new and exciting future for Aotearoa New Zealand." - Greens Co-leader James Shaw

• "This announcement sends a message to some of Taranaki's major investors and employers that they do not have a long term future in New Zealand." - New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom

• "We're striking the right balance for New Zealand - we're protecting existing industry, and protecting future generations from climate change." - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

• "Ending offshore exploration will force New Zealand households and firms to buy higher-cost and dirtier energy from foreign sources." - ACT leader David Seymour

• "The tide has turned irreversibly against big oil in New Zealand." - Greenpeace chief executive Russel Norman

• "Without exploration there will be no investment in oil and gas production or the downstream industries. That means significantly fewer jobs." - National Party energy spokesman Jonathan Young

• "The block offer does not affect any jobs that are already there. New Zealand First's support is predicated by its commitment to protect the rights of existing permit holders." - Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones

• "Half the world's whale and dolphin species visit or live in New Zealand waters, from the critically endangered Maui's dolphin to giant blue whales. Today, these sensitive creatures are made safer from the threat of oil spills and the sonic barrage of seismic testing." - Forest and Bird chief Kevin Hague.

- NZN