Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Undermining the offshore exploration ban

Back in 2018, in what they trumpeted as a victory for the environment, the government banned new offshore oil exploration permits. But the victory was short-lived: two-faced Labour immediately started to undermine it, extending permits and changing conditions to try and keep the industry they had "banned" alive. And there's been another prime example of this two-faced behaviour already this year.

Permit 60092 is one of the largest offshore exploration permits remaining, covering a huge chunk of seabed west of Taranaki. While it doesn't expire until 2028, it had a "drill or drop" provision requiring owners OMV to drill an exploration well by 1 January 2022. That hasn't happened, partly because of the pandemic, and partly because in April 2020 OMV announced it was indefinitely postponing all exploration plans in Taranaki. So you'd expect the permit to have expired, and for there to be one less exploration permit sullying our waters, right?

Wrong! Because sometime between January 4, when I first checked, and today, NZPAM did the dirty on us, and changed that condition. OMV's new "drill or drop" date is April 2024, with a fallback of April 2028 - after the permit has expired.

It is unclear why this has been done - as usual there has been no public statement. And you'd expect a pretty compelling reason to change conditions when the permit holder has publicly announced they're giving up. But neither OMV, NZPAM, or the government has provided one (I guess we'll see what comes out via the OIA). Absent a reason, it just looks like the government is undermining its own climate change policies, and effectively lying to us about its intention to end the offshore oil industry, again.

(You can check the conditions on this permit here, and you can see what permits are still in force here).