East coast oil exploration approved
Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee has announced that one of the world's largest oil companies, Petrobras, has been awarded exploration rights for oil and gas in the previously unexplored Raukumara Basin on the east coast of the North Island.
Snaring Petrobras is arguably Brownlee's biggest coup since emphatically putting the "welcome" mat out for oil and gas explorers over the last 18 months, and wooing oil majors at a global petroleum conference in Mexico earlier in the year.
The five year permit, covering 12,333sq km, is the first in the Raukumara Basin area.
Brownlee described Petrobas International Braspetro B.V., owned by Brazilian company Petroleo Brasileiro S.A, as one of the biggest players in the global oil and gas industry.
Annual revenues of US$118.3 billion ($174.63 billion) and interests in 18 territories spanning Africa, North America, South America, Europe and Asia also make it Brazil's largest business.
The venture is the company's first in New Zealand, although it has recently farmed in to permits involving NZX-listed Cue Energy on the Australian North-West shelf, and was a "major step forward" in New Zealand's relationship with Brazil, Brownlee said.
The announcement comes as Prime Minister John Key indicates the government is watching the deep-sea drilling disaster in the Gulf of Mexico closely, and that Environment Minister Nick Smith will shortly be making announcements on the subject.
Responding to the Petrobras announcement, the Environmental Defence Society called for oil exploration to be made subject to an "exhaustive resource consenting process involving public hearings, assessment of environmental effects, and strict monitoring and bonds for non-performance."
"The simplest and most effective way of doing that would be to extend the scope of the Resource Management Act beyond the present 12 nautical mile limit off the coast," said EDS director Gary Taylor.
"It could give the new Environmental Protection Authority jurisdiction over all exploration and mining activities with it filling the role of the regional council for the purposes of the Act."
A National Environmental Standard would add robustness to that process, Taylor said.