New Zealand Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges launched Wednesday the country's third annual auction for oil and gas exploration.
"The new regime has attracted world-class international operators to New Zealand, and we believe the 156,370 square miles released for tender this year will be similarly attractive," Bridges said in a statement.
The blocks up for bidding include three onshore and five offshore blocks. The government offered no reserve potential for the newly-available acreage.
Bridges said the New Zealand energy sector is a leading contributor to the national economy. Oil on its own is the fourth largest commodity export, adding more than $2 billion to the country's gross domestic product each year.
Bridges said New Zealand has "barely scratched the surface" of the energy potential.
“The government will continue to work hard to attract major international companies to invest in petroleum exploration and development in New Zealand," he said.
Permits will be awarded in December.
The government said there are around 149 million barrels of oil reserves remaining in fields already in production. Gas production was around 450 million cubic feet per day in 2011, the last full year for which the government has data.