Standing in front of a series of posters of Labour leaders which had made high profile environmental decisions, Ardern said her Government was “actively considering” the issue.
Although her statement was light on details and Ardern has previously refused to rule out ending offering new exploration blocks, the decision to walk to the front of Parliament was highly symbolic.
So much for regional development. Ban oil exploration and Taranaki will get hit hard.
But hey never mind if all those people in Taranaki lose their jobs – Labour will give them free tertiary degrees to compensate!
Ardern told the crowd she was supposed to be attending a state visit but had elected to receive the petition because of its importance. Behind her the Parliament flagpole was flying the Indonesian flag to mark the visit of President Joko Widodo.
By 4pm Ardern appeared to walk back the comments, saying consideration of what to do with the process under which areas are offered for oil exploration was something that “every government does around this time of year”.
National leader Simon Bridges said there was nothing in the announcement.
“I think this is a quickly-invented publicity stunt by the Prime Minister to distract from her week from hell,” Bridges said, accusing Ardern of giving different messages to different audiences.
“By all accounts it seems the Prime Minister was trying to give an impression of high symbolism, of leaving a foreign leader waiting because this was such a pressing issue,” Bridges said.
So it was virtue signalling.
“If we are to transition to a low carbon economy, we will continue to need fossil fuels and particularly gas, just to keep the lights on.”
If the Government plans to ban oil exploration within NZ, will they also ban oil imports? Otherwise all that would happen is we import more.