Maui’s dolphins are the world’s most endangered species – there are only 55 left – and the Greens say they’ll become extinct unless protection is strengthened.
They’re incensed by the government’s decision to offer exploration permits in 3000 square kilometres of the West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary.
In parliament on Wednesday, Conservation Minister Nick Smith said the decision was logical.
“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.”
Dr Smith said hundreds of independent observers had been to the area and there had been no sightings of Maui’s dolphins.
That didn’t satisfy Green Party co-leader Russel Norman who said the International Whaling Commission had recommended quadrupling the area off the Taranaki coast covered by a set net ban.
Dr Smith said the government had already doubled the area and and no Maui’s dolphins had ever been sighted outside it.
“The proposal to quadruple the protected area to areas where there’s evidence Maui’s don’t go, and ban activities like oil and gas would, cost Taranaki 5000 jobs and the economy $NZ3 billion ($A2.79 billion) – it would be extreme green lunacy.”