27 Mar 2018

Govt holds off on block offers for oil and gas permits

3:33 pm on 27 March 2018

The government has held off announcing 2018 block offers for offshore oil and gas exploration permits, at the New Zealand Petroleum Conference.

Megan Woods at the habour reopening in Kaikoura. 14 November 2017.

Megan Woods says an announcement will be made in the next few weeks. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

More than 200 protesters are blocking all entrances to the conference venue in Wellington and three people have been arrested.

Energy Minister Megan Woods said an announcement should be made in the next few weeks.

"Our plan, in terms of being carbon neutral by 2050 by being down to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035 are very clear indicators of the pathway this government wants to go on, and what our responsibility as a government now is to put together a very clear, a very predictable plan of what that transition looks like," she said.

Those targets commit the government to a "long-term" transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy, Ms Woods said.

"We already have very long timelines on what is already consented - we're talking about 20 to 30, in some case longer horizons here.

"What we have, is to chart out a pathway beyond that, and that is the job this government wants to begin doing," she said.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment would be involved in transition planning, as well as conversations across government, she said.

In the lead up to the event, Petroleum Exploration and Production New Zealand chief executive and conference organiser Cameron Madgwick told RNZ the industry was hoping for clarification from Ms Woods on the government's position on block offers for oil and gas exploration.

At the conference, Mr Madgwick said the industry had not yet been consulted over the government's pending decision.

"I would hope the government would engage us specifically on that prior to that decision being made, but from what I've heard today, the decision hasn't been made," he said.

Consultation was a long-term process and no decision had been made, so consultation with the industry was still expected, he said.

"Our members, and the industry, are very keen to understand the role, specifically, that we will have in any transition to a net zero emissions economy," he said.

Last week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern accepted a petition signed by 45,000 people wanting an end to oil exploration and told protesters she was "actively considering" the issue.

She later said her comments on oil and gas exploration related to the current permit process, but said that was linked to the wider issue of the industry's future.

The Block Offer programme, which was set up by the previous government, annually invites bids for new onshore and offshore oil and gas exploration.

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