Petroleum conference kicks off in Auckland

Cameron Madgwick (Paul Henry)
Cameron Madgwick (Paul Henry)

The Government has unveiled its latest petroleum exploration programme. But it faces opposition from environmental groups and is offering the exploration permits at a time when the oil industry is grappling with plunging prices.

Energy Minister Simon Bridges launched the tender for exploration permits at the annual New Zealand Petroleum Conference in Auckland.

The 2016 Block Offer includes four offshore release areas, in the Reinga-Northland Basin, Taranaki Basin, Pegasus and East Coast Basins, and Great South-Canterbury Basin. There is one onshore release area in Taranaki.

The tender will close in September, with the outcome likely be announced in December.

The Chief Executive of the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association says the sector delivers a couple of billion dollars a year to the economy.

Cameron Madgwick told Paul Henry: "For the foreseeable future oil and gas will form a part of our energy mix and so we just need to accept that is the reality and we will need to keep looking for oil and gas."

Several dozen protestors have gathered outside SkyCity Convention centre, where the conference is taking place.

Mr Madgwick says he respects the protesters' right to protest and invited them to meet with delegates from the conference, rather than just protesting outside.