Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The necessary ban

Te Paati Māori has put forward a member's bill to ban seabed mining. The ban would work by forbidding all mining activity and cancelling all existing and pending permits and consents under the Crown Minerals Act, EEZ Act, and RMA, with no compensation. While aimed at Trans Tasman Resources Ltd's plans to pillage the seabed off Taranaki, the bill actually goes a lot further: it would immediately ban all offshore oil and gas exploration and extraction if enacted. Which wouldn't just force OMV to surrender its plans to drill off Taranaki; it would also shut down existing gas fields. This is because of the bill's definition of "prohibited activity", which relies on the definition of "Crown-owned mineral", which includes petroleum.

This is something we need to do. But I'm not sure that a guillotine is the best way to do it. A planned shutdown is better than an unplanned one, and gives us time to prepare and establish alternatives (notably, electrifying industries which currently rely on gas, and replacing the dirty Huntly power plant with clean alternatives). What we need to be doing for offshore - and onshore - gas is setting a date for their phaseout: 2030 at the latest, earlier if possible. What this bill is useful for is showing us how that phaseout can be done legislatively, and starting the debate on when that date should be.