Oil and gas risk to Maui's dolphin 'small' - Minister

Maui's dolphin. File photo / Glenn Jeffrey
Maui's dolphin. File photo / Glenn Jeffrey

Conservation Minister Nick Smith said Maui's dolphins are not at risk after the habitat of the critically endangered dolphins was revealed to be part of a block of land listed for oil and gas exploration.

Dr Smith told Newstalk ZB this morning that after 30 years of oil and gas industry operating off the coast of Taranaki, there had not been any incidents with Maui's dolphin.

Documents released to the Green Party revealed that 3000 square kilometres of the home of Maui's dolphin, known as the West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary, was included in the area signed off by the Government for sea and land oil and gas exploration.

"All of the deaths of Maui's dolphins that have been caused by humans have been from set net fishing," Dr Smith said.

"It would be an economic nonsense to say that you're going to shut down a $3 billion oil and gas industry that employs about 7000 people in that region on the off-chance a Maui's dolphin may vary out from the dominant area and may somehow come to harm from that industry."

Dr Smith said the risk to Maui's dolphin was "fractionally small".

"If the country were to take this extreme green position of shutting down industries even when any risk to [Maui's dolphins] is so fractionally small, then this country is in real trouble."

There are believed to be just 55 Maui's dolphins left in the world. All are found off the west coast of the North Island.

- NZ Herald

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