Smith checking answer over Maui's dolphins

  • 24/06/2014

Conservation Minister Nick Smith is having to go back and check an answer he gave in Parliament about sightings of Maui's dolphins in an area opened up for oil and gas exploration.

Maui's dolphins are the world's most endangered species and there are only 55 left.

The Government has faced criticism from the Green Party and conservation groups over its decision to offer exploration permits in 3000 square kilometres of the West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary as part of its 2014 block offer.

Dr Smith told Parliament last week the decision was logical and said hundreds of independent observers had been to the area and there had been no sightings of Maui's dolphins.

"The block offer is nowhere near where the Maui's live," he said.

"There hasn't been a single observation of a Maui's dolphin, and the oil and gas industry hasn't been involved in a single Maui's dolphin incident in Taranaki over the past 40 years despite 23 wells being drilled."

However, he's been forced to go back and check this after information on the Department of Conservation website suggested there had in fact been sightings in the area.

"I'm checking that with the maps I've got of the block offer, I just want to get the exact detail," Dr Smith told reporters on Tuesday.

"If I'm wrong, I'm happy to apologise."

Green Party co-leader Dr Russel Norman says the Minister is wrong and he's misleading the public.

"Nick Smith's own department has documented evidence that he is wrong, and that there have been sightings of Maui's dolphins in the area that National is opening up for oil exploration."

Dr Norman says the Government isn't taking the issue seriously and is driving the dolphins to extinction.

"[The] National Government is putting these beautiful dolphins at greater risk of extinction, then misleading the public about it," he says.

Dr Smith maintains that the risk posed to Maui's dolphins by oil and gas exploration is negligible.

"All the technical advice on the Maui's dolphin is that over 95 percent of the risk is from set netting and from fishing," he said.

"I'm advised that the risk from boat movements is greater than that from the petroleum industry."

NZN/3 News

source: newshub archive