The Energy and Resources Minister has defended the decision to grant an exploration permit to an American oil company which was recently responsible for a massive oil spill.
Nine oil and gas companies have been awarded permits to explore about 48,000 square kilometres of both land and sea.
Collectively the permits represent more than $110 million in committed expenditure.
American company Chevron will explore an area off the North Island's East Coast, and potentially drill an oil well there within a few years.
In 2011, a Chevron well leaked about 400,000 litres of oil off the Brazilian coast.
Minister Simon Bridges said Chevron had a good but not perfect track record.
"I'm not concerned about Chevron, and I will tell you why. Because we don't accept cowboys in New Zealand, we have incredibly high standards which I have personally lifted," he said.
Dayle Takitumu, a lawyer for North Island iwi Te Whanau a Apanui, said the Government was selling the country's coastline for a quick buck.
"I think as New Zealand citizens we really need to be saying to the Government 'putting our entire coastline and everything that it sustains at risk for a quick buck, and to put us at the mercy of American oil? Not something we're keen on'."