9 Jun 2024

Bill to resume oil and gas exploration set for later this year

12:32 pm on 9 June 2024
Shane Jones on visits to West Coast mines

Shane Jones. Photo: Facebook / Shane Jones

The government will reverse its ban on oil and gas exploration, Minister for Resources Shane Jones has confirmed.

Jones said New Zealand's natural gas reserves were declining and sustainable sources like wind, solar and hydro were too inconsistent.

"Natural gas is critical to keeping our lights on and our economy running, especially during peak electricity demand and when generation dips because of more intermittent sources like wind, solar and hydro," Jones said on Sunday.

Offshore petroleum exploration was banned in 2018, but Jones said that restriction would be removed.

"When the exploration ban was introduced by the previous government in 2018, it not only halted the exploration needed to identify new sources, but it also shrank investment in further development of our known gas fields which sustain our current levels of use.

"Without this investment, we are now in a situation where our annual natural gas production is expected to peak this year and undergo a sustained decline, meaning we have a security of supply issue barrelling towards us."

He said the act would also be amended to make it easier for companies to get permission for oil exploration.

"Some of our current settings are a barrier to attracting investment in exploration and production because they are overly costly and onerous on industry. Some obligations lack necessary flexibility, and compliance obligations are uncertain and unclear."

The reversal was signalled in the government's coalition agreement, and faces strong opposition from environmental groups.

Other changes planned include "introducing a new tier of mineral permitting that will make it easier for people to undertake small-scale non-commercial gold mining activity" and "reintroducing the term 'promote' into the purpose statement of the act, giving the government the mandate to actively promote prospecting, exploration and mining of minerals".

The bill to enact the changes would be introduced in the second half of 2024, Jones said.

Coalition partner ACT's energy and resources spokesperson Simon Court said the oil and gas ban was "a publicity stunt".

"Taking full advantage of the resources at our disposal will allow us to get electricity prices under control, ease the cost-of-living crisis for the families who are struggling most, and grow the economy with international investment."

Opposition unhappy

The Green Party said lifting the ban was a severe step backwards that would have serious consequences.

Chlöe Swarbrick

Chlöe Swarbrick. Photo: Supplied / Benjamin Brooking

"The Government is tipping oil and gas onto the climate crisis fire, lining the pockets of fossil fuel companies, while everyone else will pick up the bill," Green Party co-leader Chlöe Swarbrick said in a statement.

She said New Zealand could have a more sustainable and efficient economy by prioritising clean energy that works with the environment, and not against it.

"The science is clear that fossil fuels must stay in the ground to limit global warming within 1.5C of warming. This government's actions are anti-science and show a flagrant disregard for international climate commitments which could lead to huge costs down the line."

Labour energy spokesperson Megan Woods said climate change was the "number one issue facing New Zealand".

"Minister Jones is hell-bent on ignoring options of energy that are future-proofed and up to global standards," she said in a statement.

"This is a manufactured crisis. We know there are reliable and cost-effective energy sources available to New Zealand that can be used without destroying the country. New Zealand is being taken backwards. This government is being cruel to future generations, this will take decades to undo - if the damage can be undone at all."

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