The Government denies it is shutting out the public from opposing deep-sea oil and gas exploration.
It is planning to change the law so that exploration applications are considered by the Environmental Protection Agency, rather than Maritime New Zealand.
The process will be non-notified, which means members of the public do not get a say.
But Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says there's no current requirement for oil companies to consult the public.
"And this is a big step forward because it puts requirements on them for exploratory drilling which haven't been there in the past but you're right, it doesn't go as far as to say let's have a conversation about whether there should be any exploratory drilling at all.
"It's a process; we'll do the drill and then decide whether there should be production based on whether there is actually anything to produce."
Mr Joyce says public consultation at the start would be over-burdensome.