Predicting Jacinda’s next move: Will she ban oil and gas exploration?

Long Lunch 20/03/2018
Photo: Newshub.

It’s typical for the Government to reconsider oil and gas permits this time of year, according to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

The oil industry recently expressed concern over the PM’s comments on the future of oil exploration in New Zealand.

Ms Ardern made a surprise appearance to accept a Greenpeace petition to end oil exploration, and then delivered a speech asking people to give the Government more time to decide whether to introduce a ban.

Al Gillespie, international political professor of law at Waikato University, joined Wendyl Nissen on The Long Lunch to discuss the PM’s predicament.

“It’s one thing to phase [carbon-based products] out, it’s another thing to actually be the country which has no more exploration or no more exploitation,” he said.

“To do this today, it would be very difficult. It’s an important industry in New Zealand.”

Mr Gillespie outlines the PM’s options.

First, Ms Ardern can outright ban the exploration for oil and gas. Following the French and the World Bank’s model, Mr Gillespie said that this would simply cut any funds from going into exploration.

“If you allow to people to explore, you’re kind of giving them the right to exploit.”

But if Ms Ardern restricts the right to exploit oil and gas, it leaves little incentive for the fossil fuel industry to invest in exploration.

She’ll be feeling a lot of pressure.

And if the PM lets exploration continue, Mr Gillespie notes that “she’s fighting against her own rhetoric.”

The second option is to “put a moratorium on it”, or to hold off on any concrete plans for a few years.

Third, she could limit permits in certain areas in order to rebalance the areas that are already saturated.

Finally, the PM could continue with the status quo but provide the industry with money to shift the products towards options like solar or wind.

“She needs to be transitioning the economy, because in the longer term there isn’t going to be a market for carbon-based products.”

He notes that it’s not as simple as transitioning oil and gas workers to solar or wind occupations, as the skillset in each respective industry can be considerably different.

“She’ll be feeling a lot of pressure,” Mr Gillespie said.

Listen to the full interview with Al Gillespie above. 

The Long Lunch with Wendyl Nissen, 12pm - 3pm on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.