The revelation that Shell has advised its investment bank to offload its $1 billion New Zealand portfolio is another big nail in the coffin of the Government’s petroleum agenda.

The Prime Minister has been jumping up and down for years defending the offshore oil industry here, waxing lyrical about the jobs it could create and the income it could generate.

‘Could’ being the key word here.

To date, no deep sea oil has been found in eight concerted years of exploration, and now the biggest rat of all is fleeing the sinking tanker.

After more than 100 years in New Zealand, media across the ditch are reporting that Shell is about to bail.

On Friday The Australian published a story stating that Shell has asked its investment bank, JPMorgan, to ditch its New Zealand portfolio, which includes oil exploration and production assets.

This follows the oil giant’s announcement last December that it was placing its New Zealand assets under a review process.

Since the news broke, Shell has tried to scuttle the claims, using weasel-words like “exploring options”, and “business as usual (read: for now)”.

But you don’t have to be a geotechnical scientist to see the signs here: Shell wants out of New Zealand.

It’s good news for our oceans, coastlines and climate. The people of Otago, Southland and the Chatham’s, where two of Shell’s exploration permits are, can now breathe a sigh of relief because it seems very unlikely anyone will be doing risky deep sea drilling down there for a long time - if ever.

Which brings us to our next point: The colossal failure of John Key’s oil agenda.

The red flags have been there for quite some time. First, there was the exit of oil giant ExxonMobil from the Great South Basin in 2010. This was followed by Brazilian bad-boy Petrobras relinquishing its permits on the East Coast in 2012 after strong resistance by local iwi Te Whānau-ā-Apanui.

And then last December, no new deep sea oil permits were allocated in the block offer announcement. Of the almost 430,000 square kilometres on offer, there were only successful bids on 12,000 of them.

Although Key & Co didn’t say so, it was obvious that the lack of deep sea permits was because no oil companies showed any interest in sticking around for the year to come.

Shell,  historically a regular rider in this annual process, was one of the stand-out absentees.

But despite all this, Our Great Leader is still clinging on by his fingernails.

While the oil companies are seeing the writing on the wall for New Zealand’s petroleum prospects and are abandoning their posts, it looks like Key will be the last man standing on this sinking ship.

Even worse, by continuing to insist that New Zealand must look for the very oil that scientists say we can’t burn if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change, Key is also guilty of pushing climate change denialist policies.  

In fact, upon his return from the Paris Climate Conference in January, he stated he had no intention of scaling back any search for fossil fuels.

But with their oil programme in tatters, the Government urgently needs to stop fracking around and quit oil. In its place, we must implement a clean energy strategy that will power our society.

Detailed analysis shows that it’s completely do-able for New Zealand to transition to 100% clean energy over the next 30-odd years. And when we do, we'll be creating tens of thousands of jobs and providing a year-on-year multi-billion dollar boost to our economy.

There is no ‘could’ about this proposal - it’s a win-win.

All we need now is a Pied Piper to wrangle the last rats out of the building…