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New Zealand to stop issuing permits for offshore oil and gas exploration; 2018 block restricted to onshore

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the government will grant no further offshore oil and gas exploration permits. Existing permits will not be affected. Energy and Resources Minister Dr. Megan Woods said that this year’s block offer will be limited to onshore acreage in Taranaki alone. The onshore block offers will continue in Taranaki for the next three years and will be reviewed following that.

There are currently 31 active exploration permits in New Zealand, 22 of which are offshore. These permits cover an area of 100,000 km2 (38,610 square miles), nearly the size of New Zealand’s North Island. The last of these ends in 2030. However, if a new discovery is made, a new mining permit may have a duration of up to 40 years. There are also 27 existing producing fields, some of which could last to 2050, the government said.


In each of the last two years only one permit has been granted for offshore oil and gas exploration. This decision does not affect current reserves or the potential finds from current exploration permits. As the industry itself admits, there is good potential for more to be found.

This is a responsible step which provides certainty for businesses and communities that rely on fossil fuels. We’re striking the right balance for New Zealand—we’re protecting existing industry, and protecting future generations from climate change.

—Jacinda Ardern

Any new exploration permits granted as a result of onshore Block Offer 2018 may run for 10-15 years and will have the right to a further mining permit if they make a successful commercial discovery.

The New Zealand Government is appointing an independent Climate Commission of experts to plan a pathway for New Zealand to be net zero economy by 2050 and for 100% renewable electricity by 2035. This has already begun with work on the establishment of an interim committee underway.


Block Offer 2018. The proposed release area is restricted to the onshore Taranaki Basin, and covers a 1,703 square kilometer area. The New Zealand government has begun consultation with iwi and hapū on the proposed Block Offer 2018 release area for petroleum exploration permits. (The largest political grouping in pre-European Māori society was the iwi (tribe). This usually consisted of several related hapū (clans or descent groups).)

Once consultation is complete, New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals (NZP&M) will provide advice to the Minister who will decide the final area to be released for tender. The tender is expected to open in August 2018.


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