New Zealand bans offshore oil and gas exploration

New Zealand’s recently elected coalition government has announced a ban on all new offshore oil and gas exploration after seven years of growing public protests.


The move effectively puts the fourth-largest exclusive economic zone on the planet – covering more than 4 million square kilometres – off limits for any new fossil fuel exploration.

The announcement comes as a significant blow to global oil companies, and follows prime minister Jacinda Ardern’s acceptance of a Greenpeace petition signed by 50,000 New Zealanders.

“This has been one of our longest-running campaigns, and it counts as a great success for so many people that this ban is now in place,” Greenpeace New Zealand executive director, Dr Russel Norman, said.

“The writing is on the wall for the oil industry. Its assumption that the world will always want more and more oil, and that they will need to exploit ever more remote new frontiers to supply it, is fatally flawed.”

Over the past decade, some of the world's largest oil companies have sought to search for and exploit fossil fuel reserves off New Zealand’s isolated shores.

Shell, Anadarko, Petrobras, Statoil, Chevron and OMV are among a list of foreign companies to undertake seismic surveying and exploratory drilling in the country’s deep seas, which threatens marine mammals.

These companies have met strong resistance from the public, with hundreds of thousands of people having marched, petitioned, and blockaded in opposition to oil exploration over the past seven years.

Notable global campaigns include opposition to Statoil’s exploration in the Great Australian Bight, Total’s drilling plans near the Amazon Reef, and the construction of new tar sands pipelines in North America.

New Zealand is now among the first countries to move towards a permanent ban, although the government will continue offering the onshore region of Taranaki for oil exploration, and will not revoke any existing contracts.

“The challenge for the industry and the government now is to provide a just transition for a clean energy future, which can provide jobs and a big boost to our economy,” Norman continued.

“New Zealand’s ban should make any company looking to develop extreme projects like the Canadian tar sands think twice about whether it’s a gamble worth taking.”


Image credit: iStock


Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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