Resources other than oil and gas can be extracted and contribute to more sustainable future, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.
Ardern confirmed today that the Government was not looking at halting current permits as it considers the future of block offers for oil and gas exploration but said other materials were less harmful to the environment.
"There are still resources that contribute to a more sustainable future, and they are things like silica, away from other extractive industries which actually instead contribute to climate change. So there are still opportunities," she said.
Silica is found as quartz and can be smelted into silicon, which is used in products such as photovoltaic solar energy panels.
But Ardern said most of the Government's focus was on the future block offers for oil and gas exploration rather than on other extractive industries.
The Government is at a critical point in its decision-making over the future of oil and gas exploration permits.
Opposition Leader Simon Bridges, former Energy Minister in the National government, said oil and gas was a multibillion-dollar sector, putting around $2.5 billion into the economy every year, a big export earner and sustained up to 11,000 jobs.
"You can't just slice that off and think it doesn't have an effect, particularly in Taranaki but also on the West Coast. These are high value sectors and I hope that some in Labour, who are more sensible about these things, and New Zealand First will stand up for our regions," he said.
Ardern yesterday gave the strongest signal yet that the days of oil and gas exploration in New Zealand are numbered, saying the world had moved on from fossil fuels.
In a surprise appearance, Ardern appeared on Parliament's forecourt on Monday to accept a 45,000-strong Greenpeace petition calling for an end to oil and gas exploration.
She asked the climate change activists for more time.
"I ask now for a bit more time. We're working hard on this issue and we know it's something that we can't afford to spend much time on but we are actively considering it now," she said.
In the lead-up to the election, Ardern said climate change was the "nuclear-free moment" of her generation.
Bridges yesterday called Ardern's appearance on the forecourt a quickly invented publicity stunt to distract from the Prime Minister's "week from hell".