30 Mar 2015

Govt oil search plans announced

6:30 pm on 30 March 2015

The Government has unveiled several new areas for oil and gas exploration, despite concerns about falling oil prices and risks to native wildlife.

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Photo: 123RF

Minister of Energy and Resources Simon Bridges announced three onshore; one in the Taranaki Basin and two in the West Coast Basin. Four others are offshore, at the Reinga-Northland Basin, Taranaki Basin, Pegasus Basin and Great South-Canterbury Basin.

The total area announced for oil exploration is 429,298 square kilometres; 4093 square kilometres onshore and 425,205 square kilometres offshore.

Dolphins at risk

Some of the areas opened up for exploration are home to the critically endangered Maui's dolphin.

The two blocks that stretch almost the entire west coast of the North Island comprise the main habitat of the Maui's dolphin, and include a marine mammal sanctuary.

Mr Bridges did not think the dolphins would be at risk.

"We've taken these issues seriously," he said.

"But the science and evidence that I've seen doesn't point to us shutting down Taranaki for these Maui's dolphins."

Economic opportunities

The Goverment remained confident international oil companies would still rush to New Zealand's shores despite a lack of success in recent years, and falling oil prices.

Mr Bridges believed this was a temporary trend.

"I don't want to call myself an oil price expert, but I think I know it will go up at some point.

"And when it goes up, those international companies will need to have oil and gas for world markets.

"I think they're wise to stick with it, to continue doing the surveying and the like in New Zealand, so that in the 2020s they've got offerings for the world."

Petroleum Exploration and Production Association chief executive Cameron Madgwick said there were positive signs that oil or gas may be present in the newly announced exploration areas.

Mr Bridges told a petroleum industry meeting in Auckland that the regulatory framework provided for economic opportunities, while also ensuring the necessary environmental and safety protections.

"Oil is our fourth largest export, and brings in around $700 million each year in royalties and taxes.

"This money is invested back into our communities in key infrastructure projects like roads, schools and hospitals," he said.

"It is clear that companies are seeking frontier acreage and long-term opportunities like those which New Zealand has to offer, and this Government remains committed to attracting major international companies to invest in exploration and development in this country."

Oil protesters lingering

Security was tight at the New Zealand Petroleum Summit meeting at SkyCity after groups of protesters were able to infiltrate earlier conferences and disrupt proceedings, though just a few protesters gathered today.

Greenpeace protestors outside the NZ Petroleum Summit 2015

Only a handful of protesters were outside today's meeting Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Yesterday, a crowd estimated by its organisers at 3000 marched through Auckland in protest at deep sea oil drilling.

The protesters argued even burning the oil that was known to be in the ground would make it impossible to stick to an internationally agreed ambition of limiting temperature rises to two degrees celcius.

They said finding still more oil would make the problem even worse, and that the search for deep sea oil endangered sea mammals.

Details of today's offer will studied by oil companies who will announce their response towards the end of the year.

Despite the Government's enthusism, actual discoveries of oil have been slipping in recent years, but Mr Bridges and his fellow ministers were hoping for a reversal of that trend.

The tender will close on 30 September 2015. Permits for Block Offer 2015 are likely to be granted in December 2015.

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