More of the Great South Basin will be opened for gas and oil exploration next year, the Government says.
New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals issued the 2013 block offer areas for consultation yesterday, including a new approach to the basin's oil and gas prospects.
It is effectively reoffering the rights to explore the Great South Basin outside of the area now being investigated by Shell, including areas that were previously part of the permit area surrendered by other companies.
Previously, the basin was split into several large blocks, first issued in 2007 to Exxon Mobil, Austrian consortium OMV and New Zealand-based Greymouth Petroleum.
Exxon surrendered its permit in 2010 and the area it occupied is now part of the new block offer.
The size of the areas available to companies has also changed, with smaller blocks of 250 square kilometres offered.
Companies can bid to explore as many as they wish, up to a maximum of 10,000 square kilometres.
By contrast, the areas first offered in 2007 are huge, each measuring 50,000 square kilometres.
Greymouth Petroleum drilled a controversial exploration well in its permit area on Stewart Island last winter.
Shell took over operation of the OMV joint venture permit in August last year.
- The Southland Times