Energy Minister Phil Heatley is set to announce the results of this year's block offer for oil and gas exploration permits next Tuesday and government officials are confident more activity will follow in the coming years.
New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals general manager David Binnie told parliament's commerce committee the 2012 "block offer" will be announced next week, and that officials are halfway through the 2013 tender.
Next week's announcement will canvass blocks covering about 40,285 square kilometres of offshore seabed and about 5704 square kilometres of land in Waikato, Taranaki, Tasman, the West Coast and Southland.
"We're hopeful ... the results of that will mean more activity for many companies into the next five years of that exploration programme," Mr Binnie said.
"Onshore we've made significant progress, in my personal view in Taranaki and on the East Coast. If you look forward, the East Coast is the most prospective on shore."
Mr Heatley's pending announcement comes after Brazilian oil company Petrobras this week handed back exploration licences for deep sea oil and gas prospects after undertaking initial seismic surveys in the lightly explored Raukumara Basin, off East Cape.
The 2013 block offer is seeking expressions of interest from oil and gas explorers for acreage in five offshore areas: the Taranaki, Northland, Reinga, Canterbury and Great South Basins.
Appearing as part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's annual review, Mr Binnie talked down a suggestion that exploration companies may be wary of New Zealand given hold-ups in regulations around the Exclusive Economic Zone.
"Companies are well aware of where the legislation is sitting at the moment," he said.
"The first deep water well from the current block offer will be three, four years ahead of us and I'm pretty confident the legislation will be in place by then."
A Ministry for the Environment spokesperson told BusinessDesk an exposure draft of proposed EEZ regulations is due to be published in mid-2013, with final decisions on the regulations to follow a public submissions process.