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Given the Government's ban, announced in April, on new offshore exploration permits, permits granted under the previous regime have taken on a new life, as once surrendered no other party can apply for permits for that area.
New applications are restricted to onshore Taranaki sites only. The Government will not contest historical offshore permits, thus avoiding becoming involved in any judicial reviews.
However, the old regime requires offshore permit holders to commit to drilling at some point. The permits have a limited timeframe unless an extension is agreed to by permitting agency New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals.
NZOG has until April next year to commit to drilling at the Clipper prospect off Oamaru or relinquish the permit, and until April 2020 to commit to drilling at Toroa, south of Dunedin, or drop the permit.
Separately, Austrian-based competitor OMV has sought an extension for its offshore permit, southeast of Dunedin, which is due to expire in July next year.
Environmentalists and the Green Party were this week urging the Government to reject OMV's two-year extension bid, which would allow it to further study the seabed geology, but not undertake any drilling.
NZOG was contacted for comment yesterday, and a spokesman said no extensions had been sought for either Clipper or Toroa.
Energy Minister Megan Woods has said permit extensions would be considered on a ''case-by-case basis'' by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which oversees the permitting agency.
The spokesman said NZOG has approached Dr Woods' office seeking clarification over the ''case-by-case'' scenario.
When asked if NZOG intended seeking extensions on either permit, the spokesman said NZOG would await Dr Woods' response before responding.
He said there would be no update on work towards finding joint venture partners for either the Clipper or Toroa prospects until NZOG's next quarterly report was released.
Both areas in the Great South and Canterbury Basins are considered difficult ''frontier'' targets, with high test drilling costs. Only non-commercial finds of oil and gas have been found in the area over the past few decades.
OMV bought the southern permit from Shell, as part of an $NZ974million asset sale deal earlier this year. Shell then exited New Zealand, following the departures of Houston's Anadarko, Brazil's Petrobras, Norway's Statoil and Mobil.