A method of extracting underground gas blamed for setting off small earthquakes could soon be in use on the outskirts of Christchurch.
There have been several major quakes in Canterbury over the past year, including the fatal tremor in Christchurch on 22 February.
New Zealand-based company L & M Energy has been granted a five-year permit to explore for gas in Mid and South Canterbury and is understood to be seeking permission to investigate an area stretching from Kaikoura south to the fringes of Christchurch.
The company also has permits for Southland and the Waiau Basin in North Canterbury.
Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, has been blamed for contaminating ground water in North America and has been linked by the US Geological Survey with low-level earthquakes.
The process, which has been banned in France, involves forcing large quantities of toxic chemicals into rock and being used in Taranaki.
Green Party MP David Clendon says Canterbury is the last place fracking should be considered, given how seismically unstable the area is.
Mr Clendon says a moratorium should be placed on fracking until it can be proven that the method is safe.
L & M says fracking has been used for decades and is an accepted method of extracting gas around the world.