David Seymour compares dangers of sailing through marine sanctuary to driving a car

ACT leader David Seymour has compared the risks posed to dolphins from sailing through a marine sanctuary to the risks that come from driving a car.  

It comes after SailGP boss Sir Russell Coutts doubled down on his claims that Christchurch will not host future series events after Hector's Dolphins entered the course in Lyttelton Harbour on Saturday, forcing the cancellation of racing. 

When asked on AM's panel on Monday if he thought the country was being "handcuffed by unprecedented layers of bureaucracy and red tape" as Sir Russell suggested, Seymour agreed. 

"There's no question about that," he responded. 

"It's a tragedy for the 20,000 fans, for all the sailing teams, for all the people doing business and trying to make money out of this event." 

Seymour was adamant it wasn't SailGP's fault the race was cancelled, despite holding it in a marine sanctuary. 

"The sailors were very happy to deal with reasonable constraints, they do this in 25 different places around the world - many of which have marine mammals."   

He said the situation isn’t about "dolphins" but rather "red tape and bureaucracy." 

"I know people will say 'what about the dolphins?', well I love dolphins too, but the facts are the rules that applied to this event were not applied to anyone else who takes their boats out on the water."   

Joining Monday's panel, Green Party co-leader Chlöe Swarbrick described the boats as having "made a reputation for themselves by going inordinately fast".   

"There were conscious decisions made to hold this race within a marine mammal sanctuary," she stressed.   

"There are other decisions that could be made about where to hold races like this, as Russell Coutts himself has outlined."  

She believes the country needs to come up with a "creative and constructive solution".   

Co-host Lloyd Burr asked Seymour if he "would you be okay with dolphins being chopped up with foils?"

"Let me ask you this question Lloyd, how did you get to work this morning? Did you come by a car?" Seymour responded.  

"People die terribly from cars. Are you okay with people dying in car crashes?  Why did you drive to work? I mean you take risks every day, you don't need to ask people absurd questions like that."

He said a regulatory approach that accepts there are risks is needed.

"There are risks in every activity we do, the only safe thing to do is to stay in bed - but actually, that's where a lot of people die too."    

"We need to bring a little bit of common sense to the conversation." 

Burr asked Seymour to clarify his point.

"If you were moving to an area, let's say Western Springs, and there was a race meet happening there and you complained about the sound level - it's your fault for moving there right?" he asked.

"So SailGP came and held this event at a dolphin sanctuary, they knew what they were getting into. Isn't that the whole point?"  

However, Seymour disagreed with the analogy.  

"You move to Western Springs, you were told that there was no problem, you understood that if there was a problem it could be managed, then in trying to manage the problem you were suddenly thrown into an absurd vortex of complex regulations, where people who really had no interest in the situation had the power to say no and you ended up with an event that wasn’t viable." 

Swarbrick then brought the conversation back to Seymour’s driving comparison.  

"We do accept that there are risks that come with behaviours and actions like driving. It is why we regulate to ensure we have seatbelts in cars or traffic lights for example," Swarbrick responded.  

"That is why we have these regulations around protection of our natural areas and our native species." 

"That is what regulation is for."

Later in the show, Kiwis responded to Seymour's comments about driving.  

"Is David Seymour suggesting that the dolphins are taking risks by swimming in their natural environment while a boat race is going on? So it's their fault?," one person wrote in.  

"Isn't that like saying we're going to hold a hunting dog show in a Kiwi sanctuary?" another added.