Strong environmental standards will be in place before any oil drilling takes place in the Raukumara Basin, Prime Minister John Key says.
He made it clear today the Government wasn't going to change its mind about the permit it has granted Brazilian company Petrobras to explore 12,330 sq km of the basin off East Cape.
Protests have been held and Ngati Porou leader Api Mahuika, citing environmental risks of deep sea drilling, says there will be many more.
Mr Key said at his post-cabinet press conference today mineral reserves, including oil and gas, had been nationalised for the benefit of all New Zealanders.
"On that basis we reserve the right to take them, wherever we want," he said.
"In the case of the Raukumara Basin we will certainly be taking it from there...Petrobras will be, assuming it wants to move from its prospecting licences to full drilling."
Mr Key said the Government was working on new environmental protection regulations.
"By the time they ever start wanting to drill holes in that part of New Zealand then there will be strong environmental standards in place and they will have to meet those standards or they won't be able to progress," he said.
The new regulations would not be specific to the Raukumara Basin and would cover any deep sea drilling.
Mr Key said he knew that New Zealanders, like people around the world, were aghast at the situation in the Gulf of Mexico where an oil spill has caused the worst environmental disaster the United States has ever faced.
"That's something the entire oil exploration industry has in the front of its mind -- they have seen how badly wrong these things can go," he said.
Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee also gave assurances today that the Government was acutely aware of the need to manage potential environmental impacts of oil drilling.
"We were acting on this issue prior to the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico," he said.
"That is why we established the Environmental Protection Authority...work is underway right now to strengthen the regulatory environment in New Zealand's EEZ (exclusive economic zone), the area which falls outside the jurisdiction of the Resource Management Act," he said.
The Green Party has accused the Government of running roughshod over East Coast residents.
"The minister knows what's best for the local people and instead of asking them, he's telling them," energy spokesman Kennedy Graham said today.
"This is poor governance...right now, only the money is talking and the minister is not listening to the people."
Mr Graham said that before any deep water drilling took place there should be a comprehensive risk assessment framework, with public participation.