Claim: National leader Judith Collins says New Zealand had the potential to be "the North Sea in the South" as she again pledged to reverse the Government's move to end oil and gas exploration.
In her interview with Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking on Monday, Collins said: "With the seismic testing I've seen, when I was Minister of Energy and Resources, off the east coast of the South Island, there's enough there, according to the geologists, for basically, it looks like a North Sea".
Stretching from the north eastern coast of Britain up to Norway, the North Sea contains western Europe's largest oil and gas reserves. Over half a century it has generated vast revenue for Norway and the United Kingdom, transforming cities such as Aberdeen in Scotland.
There is no doubt that there is oil and gas below the sea floor off the east coast of the South Island, possibly vast amounts.
In 2015, an analysis by GNS Science estimated that there was likely to be around six oil and gas reservoirs containing between 100 million and 1 billion barrels of oil equivalent.
Despite deep cold waters and challenging weather conditions, a string of mostly international companies have drilled 15 exploration wells in the contiguous area known as the Canterbury and Great South basins.
Most recently, Austrian oil and gas group OMV contracted a specialist drilling rig from China to drill the Tawhaki prospect in deep waters southeast of Balclutha during the 2019/20 summer.
But so far, despite occasional fanfare about the possibilities, no one has found much.
Although the majority of the wells drilled off the coast of the South Island - the first of which was back in 1970 - have shown at least signs of oil and gas, none found enough to make commercial development worthwhile.
Only three wells have been drilled since the mid-1980s, a reflection of the difficulty exploring in the area.
Meanwhile, the coalition's stance on the sector has seen a number of major oil companies depart New Zealand, but the holders of permits in the Great South basin can still drill now.
The Government's offshore exploration "ban" not only maintained the existing rights of permit holders, in some cases the rights have been enhanced in response to the change in the rules. In late 2018 Energy Minister Megan Woods confirmed she would consider relaxing the conditions on permits on a case by case basis.
This appeared to be aimed at the permits off the coast of the South Island where the costs of drilling are higher and chances of success are lower (rather than the established Taranaki basin).
New Zealand Oil & Gas faced a "drill or drop" decision (that is, commit to drilling or drop the permit) on the Clipper permit off the coast of Oamaru in April 2019, but was given a three year reprieve.
Collins also says that natural gas burns more cleanly than coal and that since the exploration changes were brought into place New Zealand has burnt more coal due to diminishing gas supplies.
All of this is true, but not all of it is linked as directly as Collins suggests. New Zealand has not had a commercial gas discovery in a decade (although OMV thinks it might have one), so the drop in gas production reflects longer term challenges in exploration.
Conclusion: There might be vast oil and gas reserves off the coast of the South Island but this has been known for a long time. Reversing the moves by the coalition to curtail exploration are unlikely to lead to a boom in interest from explorers; many have left and are not coming back.