The New Zealand government has awarded nine new oil and gas exploration permits, almost immediately following the Paris climate change conference, COP21.

The Green Party says this is an early suggestion that the National government has no intention of heeding the calls of the historic Paris Agreement to fight climate change.

Green Party energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes had extensive criticism for the government's allocation of additional oil and gas permits:

"National couldn't even wait a week after world leaders agreed on a plan to stop climate change before giving out new permits for foreign companies to drill for fossil fuels in New Zealand waters.


"Today's oil and gas permit block offer is the smallest ever in terms of area allocated, which shows that global action to halt climate change and low oil prices are undermining National's fossil fuel agenda - not that Simon Bridges seems to have noticed.

"Oil is last century's fuel and we simply cannot afford to drill for more of it if we're going to achieve the goal agreed to in Paris, which is to drastically cut climate pollution caused by burning fossil fuels.

"New oil drilling permit areas less than 20 km off our coast could endanger some of the most treasured summer holiday spots in Golden Bay and the Marlborough Sounds.

"In the few days since Associate Climate Change Minister Simon Bridges has returned from the Paris climate conference, he's given out oil exploration permits and opened a big new highway designed for trucks.

"We haven't seen any commitment by this Government to actually making any changes that would lower New Zealand's carbon pollution, in fact we've seen the opposite.

"With oil royalties down significantly and major oil companies leaving the country, delaying exploration, and not bidding for new permits, it's time for National to quit subsidising the oil industry to find oil we can't afford to burn.

"If National put half as much effort into clean technology and renewable energy as they do promoting fossil fuels and subsidising pollution, New Zealand could be reducing our climate pollution but instead we're polluting more than we ever have been before."

Greenpeace New Zealand also weighed in on the argument, with executive director Russel Norman quick to call the new oil permits symbolic of a "massive" failure of the oil industry.

Dr Norman says although it is not good the permits have been awarded, the fact that none of them are in deep water, despite the government pushing a deep water agenda, suggests strongly that the government's oil drilling programme is failing.

Only 12,000 of the 430,000 square kilometres of test waters offered were actually taken up by oil companies, all of which are in the Taranaki region.

"John Key has continued to insist that we must look for the very oil that we can't burn if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change, despite evidence that it's a dying industry," Normain said.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the lack of deep sea permits is because no oil companies actually showed interest in sticking around in New Zealand deep water next year. It's no longer financially viable: The market worldwide is experiencing massive failure."

Brazil had a similarly poor permit offer process - its worst in a decade - in which only a small fraction of permits were even considered by oil companies. Even Shell and Statoil, two of the world's oil giants, didn't make any submissions.

In the Gulf of Mexico, less than half of new permits of last year were taken up this year.

Meanwhile, back in New Zealand, Statoil has announced a NZD$33 million loss in 2014 from its oil exploration work.


The New Zealand government's oil agenda is "clearly dying," says Norman.

"To date, no deep sea oil has been found here, and despite the hundreds of millions of dollars spent, John Key obsessively continues to insist on subsidising the oil drillers with taxpayers' hard earned cash.

"Just think of the jobs that could have been created if Government time and money had been spent on cheaper, cleaner and smarter options like solar and wind. It's an outrageous betrayal."

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