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Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee yesterday announced Brazil-based Petrobras had been given a permit to look for oil and gas off East Cape, hailing it as "an exciting step" into an unexplored area.
Mr Brownlee said the Government and Petrobras were aware of environmental concerns -- particularly so soon after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf and is still leaking millions of litres of crude.
He said he was comfortable with the company's "sensitive approach" to its work.
Petroleum Exploration and Production Association executive officer John Phahlert said Petrobras was a world leader in the development of advanced technology for deep water production.
The Greens and Greenpeace want all deep water drilling put on hold until the cause of the Deepwater Horizon explosion is identified and the industry can demonstrate an ability to control the sort of leak that is being described as the worst environmental disaster to hit the United States.