Auckland, New Zealand – New Zealand’s government announced today it has banned all new offshore oil and gas exploration in an historic climate win that’s come after seven years of growing public protests.
By ending new oil and gas exploration, the recently elected Coalition Government has effectively put the fourth-largest exclusive economic zone (EEZ) on the planet — covering more than 4 million square kilometres — off limits for any new fossil fuel exploitation.
“New Zealand has taken an historic step and delivered a massive breakthrough for the climate, spurred on by the tens of thousands of people who have fought for years to protect our coasts from new oil and gas exploration,” said Greenpeace New Zealand Executive Director, Dr. Russel Norman.
“This sends a powerful message: We are ending the age of oil. Just as New Zealand did in 1987 when it went nuclear-free and stood up to the powerful US military, this has shown bold global leadership on the greatest challenge of our time — putting people ahead of the interests of oil corporations and the hunt for fossil fuels that are driving dangerous climate change,” Norman continued.
The announcement is a significant blow to global oil companies that have pinned their hopes on finding oil here in future. There will be public discourse in New Zealand over whether to allow companies with existing licenses — including Statoil and OMV — to carry out extraction if oil or gas were discovered.
Over the past decade, some of the world’s largest oil companies have sought to search for and exploit fossil fuel reserves off the country’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.
Although welcomed by the previous government, foreign oil companies have met strong resistance from the New Zealand public, Indigenous communities, and environmental NGOs. Over the past seven years, hundreds of thousands of people have marched, petitioned, and blockaded in opposition to oil exploration.
Last month, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made headlines when she personally accepted a Greenpeace petition signed by 50,000 New Zealanders.
The New Zealand government will continue offering the onshore region of Taranaki for exploration, and will also not revoke any existing exploration contracts.
“While 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 it counts as a great success for so many people that this ban is now in place,” said Norman.
“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.”
New Zealand is among the first countries in the world to make significant moves towards a permanent ban on oil exploration. Over the past few years, public opposition to oil has grown into a global movement, with notable campaigns including opposition to Statoil’s exploration in the Great Australian Bight, demonstrations against Total’s drilling plans near the Amazon Reef, and the ongoing battle against the construction of new tar sands pipelines in North America.
“Globally, 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. New Zealand’s ban should make any company looking to develop extreme projects like the Canadian tar sands, Arctic or Amazon Reef think twice about whether it’s a gamble worth taking,” said Norman.
Sophie Schroder, Media & Communications Officer, Greenpeace New Zealand, +64 21 086 47450, [email protected]
Greenpeace International Press Desk, +31 (0)20 718 2470 (available 24 hours), [email protected]