Environment groups have hailed the decision Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's decision to end oil exploration.

"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.

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"New Zealand has stood up to one of the most powerful industries in the world."

Norman said his group was disappointed that onshore Taranaki was exempt from the ban, and that existing offshore exploration contracts would remain.

"We will continue to demand a complete end to fossil fuel exploration on land and sea as well as the revoking of existing permits.

"This has been one of Greenpeace New Zealand's longest running campaigns and today marks a great success for so many people.

"Bold global leadership on the greatest challenge of our time has never been more urgent, and Ardern has stepped up to that climate challenge."

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."

"Today's announcement is an important signal to the oil and gas industries that our seas are no longer their playground," he said.

"Forest and Bird now wants to see this temporary breathing space be made permanent by changing the Crown Minerals Act, and having the block offer process dismantled entirely."

Recent storms had shown us how vulnerable our communities and wildlife were to extreme weather events, 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."