The East Coast basin is expected to include significant resource potential from conventional Miocene sands and unconventional oil shales and about 300 onshore oil or natural gas seeps.

The company said that the Waipawa and Whangai shale formations are the two oil shale packages that are rich in organic carbon and locally naturally fractured in the basin.

By Q2-2016, the company plans to complete technical studies, reprocessing 145km of 2D seismic and acquiring 40 km of new 2D seismic data, and drilling an exploration well in the permit.

NZEC CEO John Proust said the company now controls the largest exploration portfolio in country’s East Coast basin with more than 2 million acres.

"NZEC’s technical work over the last three years has given us a much greater understanding of the East Coast Basin," Proust added.

NZEC holds about 2,036,642 acres (8,242 km2) across four permits in the East Coast basin, which are expected to include prospective resources of 604.5 million barrels of oil.