April 11, 2018 / 9:18 PM / in 3 months

New Zealand government says will not issue new oil, gas exploration permits

WELLINGTON, April 12 (Reuters) - New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday that her government would not grant any new permits for offshore oil and gas exploration.

The 22 existing permits would not be affected by the decision and any discoveries from firms holding these licenses could still lead to mining permits of up to 40 years, according to an emailed government statement.

“This is a responsible step which provides certainty for businesses and communities that rely on fossil fuels,” Ardern said.

“We’re striking the right balance for New Zealand - we’re protecting existing industry, and protecting future generations from climate change.”

Ardern’s centre-left Labour-led government, which took the helm in October after almost a decade of centre-right National Party rule, has a support arrangement with the environmentally-focused Green Party.

Ardern had campaigned during the election to focus on preventing climate change and vowed that her government would move the country toward having no net carbon emissions by 2050.

New Zealand usually holds an annual tender process to award oil and gas exploration permits, largely in the energy-rich northeastern region of Taranaki. But interest has waned in recent years due to lower global oil prices.

Only one permit was granted in 2017 compared with 10 in 2013. (Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield, editing by G Crosse)

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