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Oil majors Chevron and Equinor have abandoned their oil and gas exploration permits off the east coast of the North Island, leaving Austrian oil company OMV as the last remaining oil giant in New Zealand.
The move comes a year after the Coalition Government issued a ban on new oil and gas exploration permits. This followed a decade of public pressure to end new oil exploration due to climate change and the risk of a major oil spill.
Greenpeace senior campaigner, Steve Abel, says the pull-out has rendered OMV’s oil exploration plans in New Zealand even more uncertain.
“We’ve seen the rats fleeing New Zealand’s sinking oil industry for years, but we’re really down to the dregs now with these two majors quitting New Zealand, leaving OMV isolated,” he says.
“Unrelenting peaceful protest, civil disobedience, and iwi opposition up and down the country has already forced the withdrawal of Anadarko, Petrobras, and Shell, and saw Equinor give up their Northland permits.”
The movement inspired the Ardern Government to ban all new oil and gas exploration in most of New Zealand’s four million square kilometers of Exclusive Economic Zone, but left existing permits covering around 100,000 kilometres.
Companies with permits awarded before the ban have still been allowed to search for oil in those areas. Seventeen permits remain and, until today, OMV, Chevron and Equinor (formerly known as Statoil), held all of the permits for the Pegasus Basin off the Wairarapa coast.
Abel says New Zealand has been at the vanguard of challenging the oil industry globally.
“New Zealanders won the ban on new oil and gas exploration through a nationwide campaign that saw iwi, hapū, local councils, and hundreds of thousands of people standing together to protect our oceans, coastlines, and the climate,” he says.
“The exit of Chevron and Equinor is a case of two down, one to go. OMV, can expect resistance. There is no place for oil and gas exploration in a climate emergency.”
OMV is one of 100 companies that have caused more than 70% of the world’s climate emissions, and is currently drilling for oil in the Arctic.
Greenpeace is running a series of peaceful civil disobedience workshops around the country, including one in Taranaki this weekend, to train people in the art of peaceful protest to confront the corporations driving climate change.