The third annual round of oil and gas exploration licences has attracted two new international players: US giant Chevron, which operates the Caltex brand in New Zealand, and Indian government-controlled ONGC Videsh, the first time an Indian oil and gas company has taken an interest in New Zealand exploration.
Claimed by Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges to be the most successful round of block offers since the new system for awarding oil and gas exploration territory was instituted in 2012, the round sees 15 new exploration licences, nine offshore and six onshore. Of those, six are either onshore or offshore in the country's only proven producing basin, Taranaki.
Onshore permits were also issued on the South Island's West Coast and in the Hawke's Bay region, where some exploration is already occurring.
Offshore permits were released for the frontier Northland-Reinga and Pegasus basins, the latter being off the east coast of the lower North Island.
Back for the second time this year is Norwegian state-owned oil and gas company Statoil, which is joint venturing with Chevron on a 15-year exploration permit for the lightly explored Northland-Reinga basin.
ONGC Videsh has taken a 12-year permit in the Taranaki Basin. Representatives of the company and the Indian High Commissioner to New Zealand, Ravi Thakur, were present at the ceremony at the Beehive where the permits were awarded.
The only other new entrant this year is a New Zealand company, New Endeavour Resources, which has picked up one offshore Taranaki offshore permit. The company is described as being established to identify development opportunities for other investors.
Bridges said one of the successes of the programme had been last year's decision to allow "multi-client seismic acquisition companies" - firms that can acquire geological data for resale to prospective developers - to bid for acreage.
OMV New Zealand, a subsidiary of the Austrian oil major OMV and already producing oil and gas offshore Taranaki, was awarded one offshore Taranaki and one Pegasus permit.
Local major Todd Exploration, in partnership with Beach Petroleum, takes one offshore Taranaki permit, while Canadian onshore producer TAG Oil NZ took a further two Taranaki onshore permits.
Petrochem, a subsidiary of New Zealand's Greymouth Petroleum, gained one onshore Taranaki permit, while small-fry onshore explorer Mosman Oil & Gas added to its territories on the West Coast and took one permit in the Hawke's Bay.
This year's award of 15 permits come with committed work programmes over the life of the permits, which extend as far out as 15 years, totalling $110 million.
The next round of proposed blocks for offer will be announced in March next year.