Crack the champagne, there's real change happening.

This week the Government decided not to release any new offshore oil and gas exploration blocks, facing up to the reality of climate change and the impact of fossil fuels.

Why are coal, oil and gas called fossil fuels? No, it's not because it's dinosaur-thinking — although it is. These fuels are millions of years old, formed from the remains of prehistoric plants and animals.

I'm hoping this decision is a sign that next week's High Court appeal of the Environmental Protection Agency decision to allow seabed mining off our coast will see that approval go the way of the dinosaurs, too.


Yes, unfortunately, this week's decision on offshore blocks doesn't stop seabed mining for iron sand, and it also doesn't cancel current oil and gas permits.

So it's a step in the right direction, plus it relies on a quality transition to ensure people working in the oil and gas industry, particularly our Taranaki neighbours, have new industries to move into.

You don't need to worry though – there's been a lot of thought into how to undertake a just transition. The Coal Action Network Aotearoa report entitled Jobs After Coal was first published in 2014, and the Council of Trade Unions has been working on solutions.

It's also why progressive political parties like the Greens don't just focus on the environment – change has to be integrated with economic, social and cultural values, too.

I have to say that for a Green Party member who's campaigned on this issue and written about the change needed for years (as readers will recall), it is a pretty good feeling to be witnessing this decision. Will this be the start of our generation's nuclear-free movement? Is this the turning point? I hope so.

On my birthday last year, the day after the Labour-Green-NZ First Government formed, I retweeted PM Jacinda Ardern saying she would be reviewing the petroleum block offers – "It's not where the future lies," she said. I didn't know the future was so close.

And we're not alone as @robellcampbin outlined on Twitter: "Countries that are moving to end oil & gas exploration: NZ, France, Ireland, Costa Rica, Belize, Denmark, Norway (in the arctic). Plus the World Bank (from next year), Asian Development Bank, and African Development Bank won't fund it."

National Party leader Simon Bridges has come out saying they would overturn this decision if re-elected in 2020.

@DavidSlack had a good take on this response: "Bridges: "I will emphasise the environment". In what way? "When people ask what I stand for I'll say I emphasise the environment". What will that do? "It will please people who want to vote for me who like to say they care about the environment"."

I don't think bodes well for the mythical Blue-Greens.

More than three years ago, I attended a weekend retreat on climate justice in Taranaki, and I wrote in this paper: "What's it like spending a weekend on a marae with a bunch of environmentalists looking at climate change? For me, fantastic.

"Last weekend I joined 80-plus people from around New Zealand for a close-up look at the reality of the oil and gas industry in Taranaki.

"It is not the rosy picture often painted of a successful province — people living on the neighbouring farms, lifestyle blocks, marae and country schools have real concerns about the industrial activities happening next door.

"The climate justice movement recognises the inter-dependency of our society and environment, and promotes intelligent and achievable solutions that increase connections to the natural world while building a more equitable prosperity.

"We need government and industry leadership to join us to speed up this essential transition away from fossil fuels for all our futures."

The Government we need has arrived.

*Nicola Patrick is a Horizons regional councillor, works for Te Kaahui o Rauru, and is part of a new social enterprise hub, Thrive Whanganui. A mother of two boys, she has a science degree and is a Green Party member.