Shell Todd Oil Services has been granted a consent to continue oil exploration in the Maui gas field for another 35 years.
The company applied for the consent so it could keep operating under new legislation governing New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone.
The Environmental Protection Authority has approved the consent, saying it is subject to conditions, which the authority will monitor and enforce.
The consent can be appealed but only on points of law.
The approval has been welcomed by Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges.
He said natural gas was an essential part of New Zealand's energy mix, and the consent would allow its continued production from the Maui field.