The Government will do "all it can" to ensure there is adequate environmental protection before future deep-sea drilling in New Zealand, Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee says.

His comment coincides with the announcement that Brazilian company Petrobras was given a permit for the first petroleum exploration permit over the Raukumara Basin off the North Island's east coast.

The Green Party was calling on the Government to put offshore oil exploration, particularly in the Great South Basin, on hold until the exact cause of the catastrophe happening in the Gulf of Mexico is identified, and ways are found to prevent the same thing happening elsewhere.

Greens co-leader Russel Norman asked Mr Brownlee in Parliament yesterday whether the Government would ensure companies wanting to conduct deep-sea drilling in New Zealand could control any leaks.

Mr Brownlee said the Government was concerned about the spill in the Gulf.

New Zealand maritime officials were in the United States observing work being done there to stop the leak and find out what caused the problem.

New Zealand's Petroleum Action Plan was also looking at the environmental protection required.

There was no prospect of deep-water drilling in New Zealand for at least the next 18 months and the Government expected new requirements to be in place before any such drilling would begin, Mr Brownlee said.

"I'm of the strong view that any of the oil companies who might be interested in pursuing their options will themselves, for the matter of their own liability, want to make sure that they are as safe as they possibly can be."

Prime Minister John Key said on Monday the Government would outline its position on environmental standards for deep-sea drilling soon.

The Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf exploded on April 20 and since then between 68 million and 150 million litres of crude oil have leaked from the ruptured pipe.

- NZPA