Government opens up oil, gas exploration blocks

Last updated 11:04 02/04/2014

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The Government is opening up 405,000 square kilometres of ocean and land for oil and gas exploration around New Zealand.

Speaking at an industry conference in Wellington today, Energy minister Simon Bridges said explorers had "barely scratched the surface" in looking for oil and gas around New Zealand.

Oil and gas was produced in just one basin, Taranaki, and there were 17 others to explore further.

Bridges announced three onshore release areas, in the East Coast Basin around Dannevirke, onshore in the Taranaki Basin and West Coast Basin.

There were also five offshore areas that will be up for bids to explore - the Reinga-Northland Basin off the western tip of the North Island; Taranaki Basin; New Caledonia Basin; Pegasus-East Coast Basin, running from Hawke's Bay down towards Kaikoura; and Great South and Canterbury Basin, which runs from south of Christchurch to south of the South Island.

Greatest interest was expected to be in the Pegasus Basin and off the coast of the South Island.

"Oil is our 4th largest export, with a value of around $1.8 billion in 2012," Bridges said.

"The Government receives around 42 per cent of the profits, or approximately $700 million each year. This money is invested back into our communities in key infrastructure projects like schools, roads and hospitals. 
"But we have barely scratched the surface of our potential. 
"If just one more of our 18 basins was opened for production, like Taranaki, it would be an economic game-changer for our nation. 
"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," he said.

The areas made available for bidding followed consultation with iwi, hapu and local authorities. 

The tender will close on September 25, with permits awarded in December. 

The industry gained a big boost at the end of last year when international exploration giants Woodside and Statoil arrived in New Zealand, when the 2013 Block Offers were awarded.

One source said there was "heightened interest" in the new blocks announced this week, with three or four new big global firms "sniffing" around New Zealand, although none were confirmed.

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- Fairfax Media

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