Assessing the seabed

Operators must seek approval to search for petroleum or minerals and comply with EEZ regulations and the seismic code of conduct.

New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals approval process

  • Operators and the Government carry out research into where petroleum and minerals might be found. Some seabed can be excluded from this process for conservation or cultural reasons.
  • If an operator wants to search for petroleum or minerals, they need to obtain a prospecting permit from NZP&M before undertaking prospecting activities such as taking seabed samples and seismic surveying. The company’s proposed work programme and technical and financial capability are assessed. Permits last up to four years.

See the NZP&M website for more information on permits:

Petroleum permits [NZP&M website]


The Environmental Protection Authority approval process

is responsible for managing the effects of specified restricted activities on the environment in the EEZ and CS under the EEZ Act. They consider applications for marine consents, monitor compliance, carry out enforcement, and promote public awareness of the requirements of the EEZ Act and associated regulations.

Learn more about permitted activities:

Marine prospecting and exploration [EPA website]


The Department of Conservation approval process

  • Special conditions apply to seismic surveying. It is treated as a permitted activity under the EEZ Act on the condition that operators comply with DOC’s Code of Conduct for minimising acoustic disturbance to marine mammals. The Code requires consultation with parties with an existing interest who might be affected by the seismic survey.
  • As part of the Code, an operator undertaking a seismic survey is also required to submit a Marine Mammal Impact Assessment (MMIA) to DOC. The MMIA outlines any potential impacts on marine mammals in the survey area and how the company intends to mitigate those impacts. The MMIA must be signed off by DOC before the survey starts.
Seismic Surveys Code of Conduct [DOC website] FAQs on the code [DOC website]
  • Operators who don’t comply with the Code within the EEZ must go through a marine consent process instead. All current operators in New Zealand's offshore waters have voluntarily agreed to comply with the Code (as at April 2014).
  • There are also six marine mammal sanctuaries, which have their own mandatory seismic surveying regulations. Operators surveying in these areas must comply with these regulations in addition to the Code.

See DOC's map of marine conservation areas:

Map of marine conservation areas [DOC website]