End of oil exploration permits historic for Māori, but battle not over

By Aroha Treacher

Environmental lawyer Dayle Takitimu says the government announcement to end offshore oil exploration in New Zealand is a historic decision for Māori, and that it can act as a beacon for other indigenous peoples fighting against fossil fuel extraction.

"This is an example where the mainstream government or colonising government have come and taken a stand that is in line with our worldview, hopefully, it garners some hope and momentum for the rest of our indigenous brothers overseas," says Takitimu.

"For our mokopuna it's huge and we really just need to keep on with the pressure that is going to be required for the rest of the culture shift that comes from extracting our society away from dependence on fossil fuels."

"It sends a message of solidarity to indigenous peoples around the world to continue the fight," agrees Mike Smith, Greenpeace.

The move is part of the Labour Government's manifesto to reduce climate pollution.

"We said very directly that fossil fuels are not our future and that we need to transition," said prime minister Jacinda Ardern.

"The point is we are going to be a net zero economy by the year 2050 and that over the course of the next 30 years we are going to be transitioning away from fossil fuels and much more into renewables and other forms of energy and industry," explains James Shaw, co-leader of the Green Party.

But National says the announcement is a step backwards, especially for Taranaki, with no new onshore permits granted outside of the Taranaki area.

"You watch there will be a retrenchment in that industry and as some media have already reported this is the long-term death of Taranaki, it's unacceptable when the opportunity is there for NZ to participate," says Todd Muller, opposition for climate change.

But Smith disagrees and believes the 30-year time frame is too long, "It's certainly not fair on Taranaki who continue to have their lands fracked their health put at risk to see their lands desecrated."

For years Māori have fought against major international oil companies, with 31 active oil and gas permits in the country currently, the last of those is set to end in 2030.