Oil and gas tender period has closed
The Takitimu Mountain range has been taken out of a exploration block offer after submissions by Nga¯i Tahu in November last year.
The tender period for new petroleum exploration permits through the Block Offer 2017 process has closed and any details about any bids remain under wraps.
The process is of particular interest to Southland, because one of the onshore areas released for tender covers 3568 square kilometres of the region and encompasses land around Te Anau, western Southland, and land south of the Hokonuis.
In the Block Offer 2017 documents, New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals described the western Southland basin as being prospective for oil and gas but under-explored.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which oversees the tender process, said details of the bids received could not be discussed, because of the commercial nature of the closed competitive tender process.
‘‘At this stage of the process, we are currently assessing bids.
‘‘The assessment considers the work the bidder proposes to undertake [the work programme], their technical and financial capability to carry out that work, their compliance history, and their likely ability to meet New Zealand’s health, safety and environmental requirements,’’ the spokesman said.
That meant even if tenders were received for the Southland release area, it does not necessarily follow that a permit for petroleum exploration will be granted.
The Southland block was one of eight released for potential exploration, stretching from the Northland-Reinga offshore release area in the north to the Great South-Canterbury offshore release area, stretching along the east coast from Christchurch to south of Stewart Island.
The 2016 Block Offer process resulted in only one new exploration permit being granted in spite of numerous tenders being received.
This was a significant reduction when compared to the four permits issued at the conclusion of the 2015 process, and the 15 permits issued in 2014.
Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New Zealand chief executive Cameron Madgwick said ‘‘in relation to the level of interest in acquiring new permits compared to 2016, anecdotally, there is a growing sense of optimism in the sector globally and in New Zealand’’.
‘‘The sector is poised for action and ready for growth,’’ he said.
‘‘The opportunities that this represents for the Southland economy and its businesses and communities are considerable.
‘‘As we are not privy to information about any bids that may have been made, we cannot say for sure that this optimism will translate into additional permits but we are confident in the increased levels of activity.’’
Earlier this year, David Morrison and Taranaki Energy Watch spokeswoman Sarah Roberts travelled to Southland to discuss their concerns with farmers about the dangers of oil and gas exploration.
At the time, Roberts said since permits had been given out in Taranaki, and covered most of the region, many landowners and residents had growing concerns about health, noise, traffic, fumes, water contamination and property devaluation.