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Energy minister Megan Woods defends government's ban on offshore gas exploration

Thursday 14th June 2018

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Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods has defended the government’s decision not to issue new offshore oil and gas exploration permits despite it going against official advice, saying she didn’t think officials had taken into account the changing world we live in. 

At Parliament's economic development, science and innovation select committee this morning, National MPs pushed Woods on the block offer decision, which the opposition has described as economic vandalism and has said it would reverse the policy if it returns to power. 

Documents released under the Official Information Act have shown the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) advised Woods to continue to allow oil and gas companies to apply for exploration permits, but to limit that to onshore and offshore Taranaki.

Woods told the select committee she didn’t agree with the official advice, as it was premised on production moving to China which “simply isn’t possible under the cap and trade system” which China has introduced. 

“If there was to be a move in production to China, that would have to be a substitution for emissions that are already being made. It wouldn’t be additional, so that argument doesn’t hold water.”

Woods said there hadn’t been a cost-benefit analysis on the decision because Treasury’s model wasn’t capable of considering “unknown unknowns” - the economic consequences of rejecting bids which have not yet been made. 

She also stressed that all three coalition partners had been involved in the decision. New Zealand First has faced criticism from its supporters over the decision, with concerns about what it will mean for the regional economies in affected areas, particularly Taranaki. 

Woods said the issue had been taken to the caucuses of the three individual parties, and “had a higher level of discussion around it” than most decisions. 

(BusinessDesk)

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