Thousands sign petition calling for Port Taranaki to ban live animal exports

More than 12,000 people have signed a petition calling on the Taranaki Regional Council to stop live animal exports from Port Taranaki.

The petition was presented to the council on Tuesday by SAFE and Taranaki Animal Rights Group.

"The people of Taranaki have made it clear that they don't want their port to be used to facilitate live exports," SAFE campaigns manager Marianne Macdonald said on Tuesday.

With the council being the sole shareholder of Port Taranaki, it had the power to stop live animal exports from its port, said New Plymouth District Councillor Anneka Carlson.

"The longer that Port Taranaki continues to facilitate this cruel trade, the more our reputation gets tarnished. Taranaki is better than this," Carlson said.

Mike Nield, director corporate services at Taranaki Regional Council, told Newshub the council was "happy to hear from the petitioners and receive their petition".

He added the council "has not had an opportunity to form a view on their submission".

According to the council, the port has its own independent board of directors and management structure and the council "cannot be involved in the port's operational matters, including this one".

It says regional councils/port owners have no role in the regulation of livestock exports, which are regulated by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Live cattle exports have long been controversial, but the practice has received even more attention recently, following the sinking of Gulf Livestock 1 in September.

The vessel left Napier bound for China with 43 crew members onboard - including two New Zealanders -  and almost 6000 cattle.

Forty crew remain missing, presumed dead, after the ship disappeared off the coast of Japan in typhoon conditions.

The Ministry for Primary Industries placed a temporary ban on live cattle exports following that incident and ordered a review of the practice. 

Exports were allowed to resume for a "conditional prohibition period" after the findings of that review were released late last month, with new rules being introduced for exporters.

Last year the Government began a broader review into the practice of live exports, though a decision has been held up due to COVID-19.