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Govt opens Maui's dolphin area for oil drilling

Tuesday 17 Jun 2014 3:42 p.m.

The Government has opened up more than 3000 square kilometres of a marine mammal sanctuary for oil and gas drilling, home to the critically endangered Maui's dolphin.

It comes less than a week after the International Whaling Commission urged our Government to do more to save the species.

The Maui's dolphin is the world's rarest. It is estimated there are only 55 left.

"I think primarily once you go from exploration right through to production, you're not jeopardising the wildlife," says Minister of Energy and Resources Mr Bridges.

In April, the Government signed off a block offer – the biggest area ever of sea and land for oil and gas exploration.

Now official documents obtained by the Green Party reveal the Department of Conservation pointed out that this is the home of the Maui's dolphin, known as the West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary.

The area the Government has opened up for potential drilling overlaps 3000 square kilometres into the sanctuary, including large areas off the Taranaki coast.

"There has been petroleum exploration in that area for a long period of time," says Mr Bridges. "I think it's about achieving a balance."

Last week the International Whaling Commission said it had "extreme concern" about the decline in Maui's dolphins.

Mr Bridges had an earlier bungle with the block offer, signing off the country's biggest forest park for drilling, Victoria Forest Park, despite having never heard of it.

The conservation lobby was outraged with the Victoria Forest Park incident, and opening up the Maui's dolphins' home for exploration won't go down well either.

*Footage in this video report courtesy of Tracey Cooper

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