Oil and gas companies are lining up to explore more than 40,000 square kilometres of seabed and land.
Bid for permits to explore the 23 blocks are now open for tender.
General manager of the Ministry of Economic Development's petroleum and minerals division, David Binnie, says there has been significant interest in the permits from overseas firms.
Mr Binnie says at a recent Australian oil and gas summit, where New Zealand was represented, the ministry received significant interest from companies not currently operating here.
He says they were global companies with strong reputations.
"So that gives us confidence that they are at least looking at New Zealand as an attractive place to invest."
The permits will be awarded by the end of the year.