18 Sep 2013

Eight new oil and gas exploration areas up for grabs

6:45 pm on 18 September 2013

The Government has unveiled eight new areas for oil and gas exploration in New Zealand.

Consultation will start on Thursday with local government and iwi.

The total area to be auctioned next year will be twice as big as the area under auction this year: 434,000 square kilometres of land and sea.

About 120 protesters outside Wednesday's petroleum conference in Wellington called for a halt to oil and gas exploration on climate change grounds.

Simon Bridges.

Simon Bridges. Photo: NATIONAL PARTY

But inside the meeting, Minister of Energy and Resources Simon Bridges, was praising the subject the protesters were condemning, saying crude oil is New Zealand's fourth largest export.

Mr Bridges then unveiled the plan saying he saw it as a way towards job creation and growth.

The new areas include 9,900 square kilometres of land in the upper West Coast of the South Island.

Other areas include add-ons to existing blocks onshore and offshore in Taranaki as well off the coast of Northland.

But a question mark hangs over how realistic the new offer is.

Last year's competitive oil tender was reduced from 23 exploration areas to 13, before 10 were finally awarded.

Shell's New Zealand chief, Rob Jager, is praising the offer, but with reservations.

"We'll look at the new opportunities and we'll make a decision whether or not to invest in those. As you know, there is a lot going on already, we're very focussed on the areas we have but we are always looking at new opportunities as well."