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New Zealand Oil & Gas is the latest company to leverage the Government’s apparent willingness to offer extensions to oil exploration permits, despite the ban on new oil and gas permits that has seen New Zealand celebrated as a world climate leader.

This morning, New Zealand Oil & Gas (NZOG) announced it was seeking a permit extension to prospect for oil and gas in the deepwater of the Great South Basin. Last month, the company was also granted a three-year extension on its drilling programme in the Barque prospect of the Canterbury Basin.

This follows oil giant OMV being granted a permit extension for the Great South Basin late last year, right as the permit was due to expire.

Greenpeace climate campaigner, Amanda Larsson, says the ability for oil companies to seek and receive drilling extensions reveals a serious loophole in New Zealand’s internationally celebrated oil and gas ban.

“Any extension of an existing permit is essentially granting a new permit and is entirely inconsistent with climate leadership. If permit extensions like this continue, Ardern’s Government will lose international credibility,” she says.

“It’s disingenuous to claim we are one of the first countries in the world to issue a ban on oil and gas exploration while also leaving the back door open for exploration to continue for potentially decades to come.”

NZOG’s revelation follows the Government yesterday releasing its annual oil and gas exploration tender. This year, it only applies to designated areas excluded from the ban in onshore Taranaki.

Larsson says Greenpeace is demanding a complete end to fossil fuel exploration on land and sea, as well as the revoking of existing permits.

“Despite clear signs we’re in a climate emergency and clear warnings from scientists and economists that we can’t afford to burn even known oil reserves, oil companies like NZOG and OMV are still being allowed to go to the ends of the Earth in search of new oil and gas to burn,” she says.

“If Jacinda Ardern is serious about treating this as our nuclear free moment, her Government would go much further than just banning new oil and gas exploration.

“Real climate leadership requires us to prohibit the development of any new fossil fuel infrastructure, have a strong plan to phase out the import of petrol and diesel vehicles, and invest heavily in electric transport and renewable energy with great job potential, like wind and solar.”