Hundreds of protesters block main Tauranga road

By Rebecca Savory -
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UPDATE 10.53am: Hundreds of angry protesters have closed a section of Devonport Rd as they marched to Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges' office this morning.

They chanted "Simon Bridges, what do we say? Save our Mauis, save them today" and "Simon says drill, we say no, save our Maui dolphins, bro".

Former weather presenter and Rotorua Labour Candidate Tamati Coffey led the pack up the road.

Mr Bridges told the Bay of Plenty Times this morning he would not be at his office when the group arrived to hand over a letter asking immediate action to ban all exploration in the sanctuary.

"If I thought it was going to be helpful to be there and if I thought there would be listening on both sides then I would be there but I don't think that's going to be the case," he said

"I don't think it would be helpful for me to be there."

Tauranga Labour candidate Rachel Jones said it was a "disregard for democracy".

"This is democracy in action," she said, looking around at the crowd.

Mr Coffey said people from all political parties had come together for a common cause.

"By him not being there he's shying away from something that hits right to the heart of New Zealanders."


UPDATE 9.06am: Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges says protesters and himself will "have to agree to disagree" on his recent controversial decision.

A protest, organised by former weather presenter and Rotorua Labour Candidate Tamati Coffey is planned for 10am today in Tauranga after Mr Bridges' decision to allow oil exploration in a marine sanctuary home to the rare Maui's dolphin.

Mr Bridges has told the Bay of Plenty Times this morning he will not be at his offices when the protesters arrive to hand over a letter asking immediate action to ban all exploration in the sanctuary.

"If I thought it was going to be helpful to be there and if I thought there would be listening on both sides then I would be there but I don't think that's going to be the case," he said

"I don't think it would be helpful for me to be there."


EARLIER 7.13am: Angry environmentalists will gather in the centre of Tauranga today to challenge Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges on a recent controversial decision.

The protest, starting at 10am, was organised by former weather presenter and Rotorua Labour Candidate Tamati Coffey after Mr Bridges' decision to allow oil exploration in a marine sanctuary home to the rare Maui's dolphin.

This is not the first time Mr Bridges has come into the firing line, coming under fire from Greenpeace NZ in April after signing away a 200,000-hectare Department of Conservation forest park for potential oil and gas exploration, then admitting a week later he had not heard of the park.

Greenpeace NZ launched an online petition to "Sack Simon" which now has more than 23,000 supporters.

Protesters will gather outside Mr Bridges' Devonport Rd offices in opposition to the decision, and to present the Tauranga MP with a letter asking immediate action to ban all exploration in the sanctuary.

But Mr Bridges told the Bay of Plenty Times the protest was unlikely to change anything.

"There's negligible risk to the Maui dolphin from petroleum activity and over 40 years of this on the west coast of the North Island or Taranaki there has not been a single reported incident where a Maui dolphin has been hurt by petroleum work."

Mr Bridges was set to be well away from his office at the time of the protest, skydiving with Tourism Bay of Plenty chairman Paul Bowker, however it has been postponed due to weather.

Tauranga Tandem Skydiving was taking the leaders up to celebrate receiving their full compliance certificate from the CAA.

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