Greenpeace and the Green Party are pleading with the Government to reject a bid from an Austrian oil giant to extend its drilling exploration permit by a further two years.
But Energy Minister Megan Woods said the decision is not hers to make and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) will have the final say on the request.
A Greenpeace official information act request has revealed European oil giant OMV has requested a 24-month extension on its drilling commitment in the Great South Basin.
The oil company is seeking an amendment to the commitment that requires an exploration well to be drilled by July 11, 2019 – 12 years after the permit's commencement date.
"We request that this condition is deferred by 24 months to be due at 168 months (14 years.)"
"The main reason is new information that may enable OMV to become significantly better informed about the underlying geology before commencing drilling under the work programme. This reduces the prospect of unnecessary drilling taking place," the company said in a letter to officials.
Green Party Energy Spokesman Gareth Hughes has urged Woods not to give OMV "special treatment".
"We'd be concerned if oil companies are trying to use a back door to gain new permits under the guise of an extension, given the Government's policy on no new exploration."
He said Parliament is currently considering law changes to ensure that no new exploration occurs – "we know there is strong pressure from oil companies to relax the policy."
Greenpeace Climate Campaigner Kate Simcock said OMV are going to "test the Government's commitment to action on climate change by demanding more time to drill for oil."
"Any extension of an existing permit is essentially granting a new permit. In banning new oil exploration permits, the Government responded to a clear desire by New Zealanders for climate action. Now they must stand strong on that principle - extending permits is not consistent with that."
A spokesman for Woods said the decision to grant OMV's request for an exemption is a "statutory decision" based on the permit conditions and had been delegated to MBIE.
Last month, Woods put a "use it or lose it" policy on ice – a policy which removes oil and gas exploration permits from companies if they're not used.
Under the current oil exploration rules, if a company holds an exploration permit but does not start drilling on it within four years, it is forfeited.
But, in response to industry concerns, Woods made a ministerial decision to "press the pause button" on the rules on a case-by-case basis.
A spokesman for Woods said that was a different issue to the one raised by Greenpeace as OMV's was a request under the existing conditions of its current permit.