Petroleum exploration company TAG Oil says it will continue its programme on the North Island's East Coast despite its large US partner pulling out.
The Canadian company notified the Toronto stock exchange last Friday that Apache had withdrawn from the programme even before any wells had been driven.
Apache is the second major corporation to pull out of New Zealand exploration after Brazilian state-owned firm Petrobras gave back permits it held for the Raukumara Basin off the North Island's east coast.
The first phase of the TAG-Apache search for oil and gas, which is already underway, involves drilling four exploratory wells in the next three months near Gisborne and Dannevirke.
TAG Oil chief executive Garth Johnson described Apache's decision as a small set-back, but says his company has the resources to fund future stages of the programme itself.
Mr Johnson says TAG Oil is now the operator of all three east coast permits it owns and will meet the commitments it has made to the New Zealand Government.
TAG Oil intends to drill four exploration wells, but is waiting for council approval, he says.