The Government has signalled it is open to continuing to allow new onshore oil and gas exploration.
Shortly after taking office, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in April 2018 announced the Government was banning new offshore oil and gas exploration.
She said onshore exploration would continue for another three years, after which time it would be reviewed.
Today, Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods said the Government was deferring making this decision on the future of onshore oil and gas exploration until after next year’s election.
In the meantime, she said it wouldn’t issue new permits.
“I am not committing to any further block offers now,” Woods said.
“Decisions will be made early in the next parliamentary term when there will be a better evidence base of future demand.”
Woods stressed the Government’s commitment to scaling up the renewable energy sector to “phase out harmful fossil fuels”.
“While fossil fuels remain essential today, the needs of tomorrow need to be properly understood to support future generations of New Zealanders,” she said.
Woods said she would “continue engagement with Taranaki hapū and iwi on the future of the block offer process, to better understand their position”.
“Our actions to date have made room for clean renewables to take over from polluting oil and gas. I am committed to keeping up this momentum to decarbonise the energy sector.”
Woods made the announcement the day after Parliament rose for the year.
It also came as the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) released a consultation document on the development of offshore renewable energy, including from wind, ocean currents, light or heat from the sun, rain and geothermal heat.
Significant feasibility studies will need to be done to examine the commercial and technical viability of these sorts of operations, as well as their environmental and cultural impacts.
MBIE’s consultation document considers whether developers should work together on these feasibility studies, or whether they should compete for permits that give them exclusive rights to do this work.
MBIE is, later in 2023, expected to consult on further regulatory settings to enable infrastructure to be constructed, operated and decommissioned.
Woods said the work delivers on the Government’s commitment to “regulate this promising area of renewable energy production, so investors have certainty and can get assessments underway as soon as possible”.
“We firmly see Taranaki’s future as still being an energy future. New Zealand has high levels of renewable resources – so we are well positioned globally to create a sustainable energy system for generations to come.”
John Carnegie - the chief executive of the energy sector lobby group Energy Resources Aotearoa - welcomed MBIE’s consultation document on renewable energy.
“We need more energy options,” he said, underlining how a “diverse portfolio of energy sources would help ensure predictable prices, reliability of supply, and a more sustainable energy future”.
“In the ideal world, the sun would always be shining, the wind would always be blowing, and our hydro lakes would remain full,” Carnegie said.
“But when the weather fails us, the practical reality is that we will need other energy options, such as an affordable and reliable supply of natural gas. This is likely to require the ongoing allocation of rights to explore and develop this resource.”
National has committed to reversing the ban of new offshore exploration if elected to govern.
Meanwhile, Green Party energy and resources spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said, “We’re glad the Government is not issuing a block offer this year. Oil and gas exploration should have stopped decades ago.
“The Government should also adopt Eugenie Sage’s member’s bill to ban any new coal mines anywhere in New Zealand and protect conservation lands and waters from any new coal, gold and other mines.”