The New Zealand government has almost doubled the area available for oil and gas exploration, opening up onshore and offshore zones about one-and-a-half times the size of the country for prospecting.
Bidding is now open for exploration permits for more than 400,000 square kilometres in three onshore areas and five offshore areas as part of the government’s 2014 block offer, Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges announced in Wellington on Wednesday.
The three onshore areas, totalling 9253sq km, are in the East Coast Basin, Taranaki Basin and West Coast Basin.
The offshore areas, totalling 395,929sq km, are in the Reinga-Northland Basin, Taranaki Basin, New Caledonia Basin, Pegasus-East Coast Basin and Great South Canterbury Basin.
“If just one more of our 18 basins was opened for production, like Taranaki, it would be an economic game-changer for our nation,” Mr Bridges said.
“That is why the government will continue to work hard to attract major international companies to invest in petroleum exploration and development in New Zealand.”
Although the area on offer is large, this is narrowed down to very small areas through the permitting process, Mr Bridges told reporters.
Despite Texan oil giant Anadarko failing to find oil during its exploratory drilling over the summer, Mr Bridges said there’s good momentum and interest in oil and gas exploration in New Zealand.
“I think what we all are learning is that this is a long term gain where actually it takes a lot of exploration to find where the oil and gas is,” he said.
“There is good momentum and we want to keep that going because we think that’s right for New Zealanders and our economic interests.”
Bidding for exploration permits closes on September 25 and it’s expected permits will be granted in December – after the election.
Mr Bridges said he thought there was some consensus between National and Labour on oil and gas exploration.
Asked what the Green Party might think, Mr Bridges said: “The Greens are the Greens”.
Consultation with local authorities and Maori tribes on the areas available for exploration got under way in September last year.
There were just a handful of protesters, some dressed in cow suits, outside the announcement at Te Papa.
The Green Party is calling for Mr Bridges to resign as the associate minister for climate change issues following the block offer announcement.