The New Zealand Government has launched the 2016 Block Offer petroleum tender for exploration permits covering 525,515km² offshore and onshore areas.

The latest tender includes four offshore release areas in the Reinga-Northland Basin (186,181km²), Taranaki Basin (60,978km²), Pegasus and East Coast Basins (68,662km²), as well as Great South-Canterbury Basin (208,632km²).

It is also offering one onshore release area in Taranaki (1,062km²).

"Oil remains a significant export earner in New Zealand."

New Zealand Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges said: "Since it was first introduced in 2012, the annual Block Offer has provided an effective way for the government to strategically manage how we allocate petroleum exploration permits.

"Oil remains a significant export earner in New Zealand and natural gas is a vital input to industry, electricity generation and is used in more than 300,000 homes.

"In recent years, the government has built a world-class regulatory framework to provide for oil and gas development, while ensuring our unique environment is protected and workplace health and safety standards are high."

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Set to close on 7 September, the tender was launched by the government after consulting with residents and local authorities.

The outcome of the tender is likely to be announced in December, with permits expected soon after.

Bids for exploration permits must show an understanding of the area’s geology and are also required to include a work programme, which sets out proposed activities.