The government has announced that this year's block offer will be limited to onshore exploration in Taranaki.
Her government, elected a year ago, has ambitious goals of generating all power in New Zealand from renewable sources by 2035 and becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
The decision to allow existing permits to continue was important "as doing otherwise would have had a potentially devastating effect on investment into New Zealand".
"As the industry itself admits, there is good potential for more to be found", Ms Ardern said.
The country's oil industry quickly voiced its anger over the move. We'd like to congratulate the Prime Minister and her Coalition Government for acting decisively for our future and our children's future.
New Plymouth mayor Neil Holdom said the decision was "a kick in the guts" for the Taranaki region.
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"It's a radical proposition, yet today we find out that despite that they have no intention of doing anything that would actually change things", he said.
"Is the government going to put money to help us?" "We have to start taking those obligations seriously".
However, Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New Zealand (Pepanz) chief executive Cameron Madgwick said the decision was likely to affect New Zealand's energy security and worldwide reputation. However, another two thirds national energy use is industrial and transport related, for which complete renewable alternatives are not now economically viable.
Mr Madgwick said it would have a massive impact on jobs and other forms of fuel would become more expensive.
Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones also said the move did not affect any jobs that were already there.
"Last week's announcement of the Taranaki Action Plan was a first step in that process".
"We note that the announcement is a sudden change of policy, which has not been consulted on and appears to conflict with the government's pre-election promises", it said in a statement. "No current jobs will be affected by this as we are honouring all agreements with current permit holders", Ardern said.
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Greenpeace director Russel Norman told Morning Report it was a huge win for the climate.
Opposition lawmaker Jonathan Young described the move as "economic vandalism".
Ardern said, "There are 31 oil and gas exploration permits now active, 22 are offshore".
"But nonetheless this is still a very significant decision and I think it will be globally significant".
"We must take this step as part of our package of measures to tackle climate change", she added.
"People are putting pressure all around the planet now, because we understand the global problem".
"As Jacinda Ardern said a year ago, climate change is this generation's nuclear-free moment".
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Not exploring and producing petroleum in New Zealand meant other countries would produce it instead and New Zealand would have to import it at higher cost, he said.
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