Wellington offshore block up for exploration

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
BUSINESS REPORTER
Last updated 15:29 08/06/2012

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A 7000 square kilometre offshore block south of Wellington will be put up for tender for oil and gas exploration.

The block is part of the than 40,000 square kilometres of New Zealand's seabed and 3000 square kilometres of land has been put up for tender for following four months of consultation.

New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals, part of the Ministry of Economic Development, officially launched the tender process for 23 exploration blocks which oil and gas companies from around the world will be invited to bid for.

While two blocks originally proposed to be part of the tender have been withdrawn, several more trimmed and particular conditions to consult Maori on another, the blocks being offered are largely the same at those announced by NZPM in February.

As well as a number of blocks in Taranaki, home of New Zealand's petroleum industry, the blocks cover areas in Southland, West Coast, Tasman and Waikato.

Offshore blocks include 7000 square kilometres to the south of Wellington, a 2476 square kilomtre block off the coast off the coast of Manuwatu and southern Hawke's Bay, others in the Canterbury Basin and the Great South Basin, south of Stewart Island, and several off the Taranaki coast.

Energy and Resources Minister Phil Heatley said today's release was ''an important step towards realising the potential of New Zealand's oil and gas resources''.

The world's oil and gas industry have until October to submit bids for particular blocks, including what work they would commit to doing to search for oil and gas.

Companies will be required to submit financial details, oil production, future commitments, and for the first time, details on their track record for dealing with local populations, especially indigenous people.

David Binnie, NZPM's general manager, said the 23 blocks were chosen based on current knowledge of the geology and oil and gas prospectivity of the areas.

''The blocks cover a number of petroleum basins and a variety of environmental settings and resource types to attract a range of potential explorers with different expertise and interests,'' he said.

''The blocks have been selected because there is a likelihood that they contain significant quantities of oil and gas.''

While block offers have been used in the past, previously NZPM also offered blocks on a ''priority in time'' basis, which allowed companies to bid to explore any area.

David Robertson, chief executive of the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association (PEPANZ) said the offer presented an ''exciting opportunity'' for New Zealand.

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''This announcement signals growth of the oil and gas industry, the potential to give New Zealand's economy a much needed boost and create more jobs on the ground for Kiwi workers''.

The offers follow consultation with local iwi and local and regional council, although the general public was not invited to submit consultation.

The Green Party said the offer risked damaging New Zealand's environmental reputation.

''If there is a leak from a deep sea oil rig there is no easy way to stop it. The consequence for New Zealand's environment, economy and reputation would be catastrophic,'' energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes said.

 ''There is no guarantee of safety with deep water oil drilling so we shouldn't be doing it.''

Concerns about proposed oil wells off the Wellington coast were raised earlier this year.

Environmentalists and local politicians said, in April, that they were not consulted about two blocks in the Pegasus Basin, south of Wairarapa.

Related:

Oil wells off Wellington to go ahead

Search for oil and gas near Wellington

Contact Hamish Rutherford
Business reporter
Email: hamish.rutherford@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @oneforthedr

- The Dominion Post

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