As Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern set out the decision to halt future deep sea oil and gas exploration she was flanked by the ancient Greek muses of tragedy and comedy in the form of Green Party co-leader James Shaw and NZ First Shane Jones.

Shaw could not restrain a grin while Jones looked like he had just sucked a lemon.

It is little wonder Jones had such an expression. His self-bestowed title of Champion of the Provinces was under threat as he digested his third wallop at the Greens' hands in two weeks.

There was today's move on the oil and gas sector, last week's fuel tax and transport programme and the wind down of the Government's irrigation support scheme.


When it came time to speak Jones did his best to put a brave face on it, insisted that although he was renowned for being pro-industry when NZ First signed up with Labour it had signed up as "a government of change".

He sought to put it in perspective, saying it was not "a Welsh mining moment" so there would not be screeds of unemployed markets on the streets. And look! If worse comes to worst there is always the billion trees programme.

Jones might find his future regional visits somewhat trying, but the decision was a triumph for the Greens.

It was also a triumph for Ardern who will arrive in Europe next week with quite some bragging rights on climate change action for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.

Those in the oil and gas sector have cried foul over the lack of any specific Labour policy on the issue.

But it should not be a big surprise to anybody. For a start it is Green Party policy and it was always apparent that the Greens would be involved in any Labour-led government.

It is also completely on message for Ardern herself, who campaigned strongly on climate change and could hardly now do nothing.

Ardern was also measured in her handling of it.


She said Labour had signalled a move from fossil fuels and that transition had to start somewhere.

However, she had taken care to prevent any "abrupt shock" to the industry by opting against halting those permits that were already in the pipeline.

In that she pointed to the lessons learned from Rogernomics and the impact that had on communities.

What is lamentable is the apparent level of consultation.

Petroleum Exploration and Production NZ (PEPANZ) chief executive Cameron Madgwick claimed it was not consulted before the decision was made.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor also had to admit he had not met Crown Irrigation Investments Limited before the decision to wind down the Government subsidy scheme for irrigation.

Ardern defended the oil and gas "consultation" by saying Labour had made its views on fossil fuels clear and Energy Minister Megan Woods had given a speech at the oil and gas conference and knew what their views were from talking to them.

It is notable that after that conference, Madgwick told media they had not yet had in-depth talks with the Government and did expect to be consulted on the Government's plan before a decision was made.

Ardern is right to argue nobody should be blind-sided by today's decision – but she knows full well that accepting a Greenpeace petition, and a few sideline chats and a speech in which Woods could only hint at what was coming does not amount to proper consultation.

It was quick to criticise National if it deemed there was a lacklustre or no attempt at consultation, such as with Maori fisheries interests over the Kermadecs.

National deserved the slap in that case. But it cuts both ways.

Labour's challenge now is proving new technologies can indeed fill the gap that will eventually be left by the decision – and to prevent that "abrupt shock" happening of its own accord if companies start winding back their existing investments or see their workforces collapse as they seek refuge elsewhere.

That will take more than Jones' billion trees, which have now become a cure-all for all types of ailments, from a carbon sink to a massive job scheme for his ne'er-do-well nephews to redundant oil and gas workers.

Jones' challenge is making it out of the regions in one piece.