New Zealand Court Decision Opens Way for Great South Basin Exploration

New Zealand Crown Minerals

The Ministry of Economic Development says that the High Court had dismissed an appeal by Australian exploration company Bounty Oil & Gas against the revocation of their exploration permit in the Great South Basin.

Bounty had been awarded a large (11,660 sq. km) exploration permit in the Basin in August 2001, but had failed to carry out significant work required under the terms of their permit, and as a result the permit was subsequently revoked by the Ministry in 2005.

Bounty had appealed the revocation on six grounds, but the Court dismissed all arguments, describing the action taken by the Crown Minerals Group of the Ministry of Economic Development against Bounty as "fully justified."

Bounty had also argued that worldwide interest in the region had prompted the revocation. However, the Court stated that there was no evidence to support any inference of improper motivation.

The Great South Basin has drawn interest from a number of large international petroleum companies as a result of the Ministry signaling an intention to hold a bidding round for exploration permits in the region, and data recently acquired in the area under a Crown funded seismic survey.

The Bounty permit, however, covered a significant area of the proposed area to be offered for bidding and the unresolved dispute represented a significant barrier to attracting bidding interest.

The Ministry said that it was not only pleased that the Great South Basin bidding round could now be opened, but also that the Court had vindicated the firm line it had taken on holding exploration companies to account for the exploration work promised at the time exploration permits were sought.

The Ministry said that it now planned to formally open bidding next month.