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The Greenpeace flagship, Rainbow Warrior, is on its way to Taranaki to send a message to Austrian oil giant, OMV.

The Rainbow Warrior is currently in New Zealand as part of a national tour to celebrate the Government’s April announcement banning new offshore oil and gas exploration permits, and to canvas clean energy opportunities.

But Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner, Amanda Larsson, says for some communities in New Zealand, there is still a risk that oil and gas exploration could be a reality for years to come due to existing permits that passed through before the ban.

“Taranaki is one of three areas in New Zealand that is still open to oil and gas companies wanting to exploit dirty energy reserves from under the seabed,” she says.

“This region is also one of only four known breeding and foraging grounds for blue whales in the Southern Hemisphere. It is an abomination that anyone would blast and drill in these precious waters for profit.”

The majority of oil and gas rigs off the Taranaki coast are currently operated by Austrian oil giant OMV, one of 100 global corporations responsible for over 70% of the world’s climate pollution since 1988.

OMV is planning to drill nine new exploratory wells in Taranaki next year.

“Oil companies have known that their product causes climate change since before I was born,” says Larsson. “There is no excuse for continuing to search for new oil and gas that the world cannot afford to burn.”

OMV has been aggressively expanding in New Zealand, including buying existing oil and gas permits off Shell, rapidly making it New Zealand’s biggest oil player. The Government’s ban on new offshore oil and gas exploration permits does not extend to existing permits.

As well as Taranaki, OMV has active oil and gas exploration permits off the Wairarapa Coast and in the Great South Basin. The company has a commitment to drill in the Great South Basin by July 2019.

A week ago, the Government announced it would be introducing an amendment to the Crown Minerals Act to bring the ban on new offshore oil and gas permits into law.

There is now a two-week public consultation process on the amendment, and Greenpeace has launched an online tool enabling members of the public make submissions supporting it.

Greenpeace also submits that the law should go further and put an end to existing permits, such as those held by OMV in Taranaki, Wairarapa, and the Great South Basin.

Larsson says it’s critical for the public to get involved, as the oil industry will be mobilising all their efforts to oppose the ban.

“The oil industry are already resisting this amendment and are using their influence and deep pockets to fight against any sort of action on climate change that jeopardises their profits,” she says.

“New Zealand became one of the first countries in the world to announce a ban on new oil and gas exploration. This happened off the back of a decade-long campaign by a movement of hundreds of thousands of people. It’s important now that we solidify our position as a global climate leader and get this ban over the line.”