Nine new oil and gas exploration permits have been granted in New Zealand, six of them off the coast of Taranaki.
The permits in Block Offer 2015 went to Singapore-based Mont D'Or Resources, Austrian company OMV and New Zealand's Todd and Petrochem.
Energy Minister Simon Bridges said the permits were worth an initial $4.4 million in committed work programmes.
The level of interest from oil and gas companies in this year's block offer was lower than previous years.
But Bridges said compared with last year the money that will be invested has improved.
The number of bids was still promising given the low oil price and pressure on companies to reduce expenditure, he said.
New Zealand remained an attractive destination and had the right regulatory settings, but exploration budgets had been significantly reduced.
"We have seen about $150 billion wiped off their budgets over the past year," Bridges said.
In these conditions, companies had opted for the "tried and true". Taranaki was known for its track record in producing oil and already had the infrastructure, workforce and some seismic data in place.
Some companies had applied to survey New Zealand's Frontier Basins but were rejected because they did not have the capability to explore these deeper waters.
"They don't quite meet the requirements and standards that are being sought," Mr Bridges said.
The block offer came days after a global climate change deal was signed in Paris.
Bridges said the Government recognised the need to shift to a low-carbon future, but in the short term the world had significant energy needs and oil and gas "remained part of the mix for some time to come".
Some of the permits were granted in areas where rare dolphins were known to swim, prompting criticism from environmental groups.
Bridges said New Zealand had one of the strictest seismic exploration codes in the world, which was designed to prevent any harm to wildlife.