This study evaluates the petroleum prospectivity of the East Coast Basin, an element of the Hikurangi convergent margin of New Zealand. The basin tectonic environment changed from a dormant convergent margin to convergent margin around the early Miocene, likely causing a decrease in the basin thermal regime. Two end-member paleoheat flow scenarios were used to evaluate thermal maturation of two key source rocks, the Waipawa Black Shale and Whangai Formation, based on calibration to six wells across the basin using vitrinite–inertinite reflectance and fluorescence analysis, as well as Rock-Eval Tmax (the temperature at which the maximum rate of hydrocarbon generation occurs during pyrolysis analysis), thermal alteration index, apatite fission track analysis, and present-day temperatures. This study finds that paleobasal heat flow ranged between 40 and 55 mW/m−2 and decreased to 30 mW/m−2 between 15 and 5 Ma, as bracketed by the two end-member heat flow scenarios. The heat flow scenarios were applied to a palinspastically reconstructed basin and petroleum system model across Hawke Bay. We find that the two distinct heat flow scenarios cause a 3–6.5 m.y. difference in the relative timing of hydrocarbon generation across the basin. Structural events in the basin associated with convergent margin tectonics act as the main control on the timing of generation. Modeling results show transformation of kerogen to hydrocarbons began between early and late Miocene for both source rocks depending on the structural regime in the basin. The structural control on source rock maturation highlights the need for robust palinspastic reconstructions in addition to paleothermometric data to evaluate the petroleum prospectivity of convergent margin basins.