The Prime Minister says the Government needs to weigh-up the benefits and costs to the economy and the environment when considering the future of oil and gas exploration.
In her weekly post-cabinet press conference on Monday afternoon Jacinda Ardern attempted to clarify comments she made earlier in the day.
On Monday morning, she met with Greenpeace protesters outside Parliament to accept a petition calling for the end of oil exploration.
Standing in front of posters of Labour Prime Ministers past, Ardern revealed the Government was “actively considering” Greenpeace’s call.
The Government needs time to consider the proposal, she said, “but not much.”
“Just enough that we can make sure that we factor in everything that you would ask us to factor in.”
She later clarified this meant the Government would be assessing future block offers for exploration.
Under the Government’s programme of block offers, successful applicants are granted exploration permits for 10-15 years to search for oil and gas in specifically allocated blocks.
At the press conference later in the day, Ardern was downplaying the significance of the comments.
She says at this time of year, every Energy Minister considers the future of block offers in regards to what will and won’t be considered.
“What I’m pointing out is that every government, at around this time of year, actively considers how it will manage block offers, that’s what we’re doing.”
She says no decisions have been made yet.
“At the moment, we are working on the way we will manage future block offers and I need to allow cabinet colleagues to factor in environmental impacts, economic impacts and our focus on a just transition.”
Ardern pointed out a number of times that the Government will be focusing on assessing future block offers.
But what about current block offers?
“We have to keep in mind that there are contractual obligations that the Crown has entered into and there is a cost to moving away from those,” she says.
Progress on US tariff exemption?
Meanwhile, Ardern says she has written to US President Donald Trump to ask for an exemption to his administration’s steel and aluminium tariffs.
“[The letter] outlines some of what we understand to be the existing areas of concern for the US and what has driven their position of those tariffs and some of the things that would be considered in deciding whether or not any country would be exempt.”
She is awaiting a response.
The former head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Supachai Panitchpakdi, says US threats to impose tariffs on its steel and aluminium imports shouldn't hurt New Zealand.