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OMV's giant drilling rig, COSL Prospector, rounded Stewart Island over the weekend on its way to the Great South Basin off the Otago coast.
The rig has sailed down the West Coast from Taranaki on its way towards the Tawhaki-1 drill site, located 146km off the coast of Balclutha.
There, waiting to meet it, a fleet of five support vessels has assembled, including Skandi Atlantic and Pacific Runner.
And as OMV’s preparations for drilling ramp up, helicopters have been ferrying crew and supplies from Dunedin out to the vessels at sea.
The activity comes weeks after OMV was granted consent by the Environmental Protection Agency to drill up to 10 exploratory and appraisal wells in the Great South Basin.
The company has previously said it was planning just one test well, costing up to $80 million.
OMV spokeswoman Tahlia Rangiwananga confirmed the fleet of vessels was preparing for the start of drilling activities.
She could not say when drilling would start, or how long it would take, as "once the rig’s there there’s a number of things to set up".
"When and if they start drilling, it could be days, it could be weeks, depending on how long things pan out."
The exact number of wells to be drilled would also depend on what was found, but the EPA consent did give the company scope to expand its drilling programme beyond one test well, she confirmed.
Oil Free Otago spokesman Jack Brazil said OMV’s arrival made a ‘‘mockery’’ of recent decisions to end new oil and gas prospecting in New Zealand.
The company was also ramping up its activities in the South just as fires in Australia showed the consequences of the climate and ecological crisis facing the planet, he said.
"We are seeing a hell-blaze inferno happening in Australia. Those 100 companies responsible for 71 per cent of [global] emissions, including OMV, are adding fuel to that fire."
Another group spokeswoman, Rosemary Penwarden, said OMV appears also to have speeded up its move to southern waters.
"It looks as though they wanted to move on to this more controversial part of their drilling programme ... while everyone was otherwise occupied and celebrating New Year," Ms Penwarden said.
"Plans to disrupt at sea are not yet fully formed but OMV should not rest easy," she said.