NEW Zealand’s Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges has announced the start of the Block Offer 2017 process for awarding oil and gas exploration permits.

Consultation with iwi begins now and with local authorities in the areas being proposed for onshore and offshore exploration.

“This is an important first step in the Block Offer process. Feedback from iwi and local authorities ensures that any areas of sensitivity are identified and carefully considered before the tender round is finalised,” Mr Bridges says.

The Minister said schedule 4 areas (including national parks and marine reserves) and World Heritage sites are excluded from the Block Offer process.

Consultation will take place on four proposed offshore areas, one proposed offshore/onshore area, and two proposed onshore areas, covering a total area of around 508,691 square kilometres.

“Since the Government adopted the annual Block Offer approach in 2012 we have attracted multiple experienced and capable operators to explore New Zealand’s potential.

“I acknowledge the challenging low oil-price environment that industry is currently facing but we know commodity prices are cyclical.

The Government remains committed to providing a stable and predictable regime.”

The consultation period for Block Offer 2017 runs until 18 November 2016. The final tender area will be announced in March next year.

Minister Bridges said tghe proposed 2017 blocks that we are consulting on have been selected based on their prospectivity, available data and anticipated commercial interest. This includes a range of mature and frontier acreage to appeal to a diverse range of operators.