Greenpeace Executive Director, Russel Norman, says the Government has listened to people throughout the country who have campaigned for seven years to bring an end to offshore oil and gas exploration.
Last month, an open letter signed by dozens of respected New Zealanders, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s personal acceptance of a 50,000 strong Greenpeace petition, telegraphed an announcement.
Today, the Coalition Government announced an end to the annual offshore ‘Block Offer’ process, which sees hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of New Zealand land and sea being offered to companies to explore for oil and gas. The Government will continue offering onshore Taranaki for exploration, and will not revoke existing exploration contracts.
Norman says today’s announcement means, “the tide has turned irreversibly against Big Oil in New Zealand”.
“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Coalition Government have taken an historic step and delivered a huge win for the climate, spurred on by the tens of thousands of people and environmental NGOs like Greenpeace who have fought for years to end new oil and gas exploration,” he says.
“Today’s announcement is significant internationally too. By ending new oil and gas exploration in our waters, the fourth largest Exclusive Economic Zone on the planet is out of bounds for new fossil fuel exploitation. New Zealand has stood up to one of the most powerful industries in the world.
“There is still some work to do, however. We are disappointed that onshore Taranaki, where communities have to deal with ongoing fracking and exploration, is exempt from the ban, and that existing offshore exploration contracts will remain.
“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 today marks a great success for so many people.
“Bold global leadership on the greatest challenge of our time has never been more urgent, and Ardern has stepped up to that climate challenge. We’d like to congratulate the Prime Minister and her Coalition Government for acting decisively for our future and our children’s future.
“Greenpeace also supports the Prime Minister’s commitment to a just transition to a clean energy future, which can provide jobs and a big boost to our economy.”
Tens of thousands of people, alongside iwi, have marched, protested, petitioned and successfully lobbied their local representatives to oppose oil exploration over the last seven years. This has led to the biggest councils in New Zealand formally opposing the Block Offers.
Greenpeace New Zealand was on the vanguard of highlighting the risks of offshore oil exploration and drilling when in 2011 it formed an alliance with East Cape iwi, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, and mobilised a flotilla to protest seismic blasting for deep sea oil by Brazilian oil company, Petrobras, who subsequently abandoned the initial survey and then surrendered their permit altogether.
A key aspect to the success of the seven-year oil campaign has been the alliance between Greenpeace, Māori, and the wider community.
Most recently, East Coast iwi Ngāti Kahungunu mobilised its traditional bluewater Waka Hourua, Te Matau a Māui, to challenge the Amazon Warrior as it searched for oil on behalf of Statoil, Chevron and OMV off the Wairarapa Coast. Greenpeace also travelled the 60 nautical miles out to sea out to meet the seismic blasting ship in crowd-funded boat, Taitu.
Following the Amazon Warrior’s arrival, over 80 coastal hapū declared their unanimous rejection of oil exploration, culminating in a historic agreement by the National Iwi Chairpersons Forum last December to oppose all seismic testing and oil exploration in the waters of New Zealand.