Survey of New Zealand's North Island East Coast Completed

Crown Minerals has successfully completed an offshore seismic survey of the east coast of the North Island as part of a major tender of New Zealand petroleum basins planned for later this year, Energy Minister Trevor Mallard said.

"This is a ground-breaking initiative which will have a major impact on perceptions of New Zealand as a desirable petroleum exploration destination by international exploration companies" Trevor Mallard said.

"Market analysts in North America have also shown interest in this initiative, commenting that New Zealand's competitive fiscal regime and the availability of free data packages will draw the attention of North American explorers to New Zealand's up coming bidding rounds."

The survey was the first to be undertaken under the $15 million budget approved by Cabinet in September 2004. It is part of an investment strategy launched last year to promote international exploration in New Zealand's frontier petroleum basins. Frontier basins such as the East Coast and Northland are critical to increasing New Zealand's petroleum reserves and reducing New Zealand's dependency on the Taranaki basin, and Maui in particular.

The survey covered approximately 100,000 sq km from the Wairarapa coast up to the eastern Bay of Plenty.

"This project represents a significant shift in the strategy to secure oil and gas supplies post-Maui depletion as the data acquired from the survey will be processed, packaged and made freely available to companies bidding for exploration permits in the region," Trevor Mallard said.

Processing of the seismic data and regional geological studies are well underway. This information will form the basis of a comprehensive data pack to support the East Coast blocks offer. An announcement regarding the opening of this blocks offer is planned for late July 2005.

"Acquiring the data for free will help reduce the single biggest barrier to attracting new explorers to New Zealand. It will significantly reduce the time and costs associated with a company evaluating prospectivity and preparing a bid for an exploration permit."

Crown Minerals has also set aside an area of the offshore Taranaki basin for a future competitive bidding round.