A vast new area of seabed off Northland's west coast is being opened up to oil and gas exploration in the Government's 2015 block offer.

Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges announced the offer on Friday.

The Reinga-Northland Basin covers just under 190,000sq km and is one of seven areas the Government is offering to oil and gas companies. The Basin extends south of Raglan and well north of the Three Kings Islands.

The area to be opened up excludes the 9800sq km where Norwegian firm Statoil was granted an exploration permit in the last block offer. Statoil plans to start seismic testing to identify possible oil and gas deposits next month using the Norwegian company TGS.


NZ Petroleum and Minerals describes the Reinga-Northland Basin as large and relatively unexplored. "It is believed to be prospective for oil and gas, and it has many similarities with the Taranaki Basin," its website states.

The announcement is expected to stoke up opposition to seismic testing and possible oil drilling off the Northland coast. An awareness day is being planned at Ahipara early next month.

Mr Bridges said he encouraged iwi and local authorities to take part in the consultation process, which closed on February 9, 2015. Feedback would ensure sensitive areas were carefully considered before the tender round was finalised.

He said the Government was committed to safe and responsible exploration.

The proposal, which comprises four offshore and three onshore areas, covers about 476,000sq km. New Zealand's total land area is about 270,000sq km.

Rueben Taipari Porter, a leading opponent of oil exploration, said he had been disappointed with the last consultation round, which he believed was set up to ensure the Government got its way.