Northland-based Labour list MP Shane Jones has again hit out at the Green Party for opposing development of the regions's resources, including oil and gas, which he says could help reduce spiralling Maori unemployment.
Energy and Resources Minister Phil Heatley this week announced which areas, including a large section of seabed off Ninety Mile Beach, would be opened up for oil and gas exploration next year. He said the Government had begun consultation with relevant iwi.
Green Party oceans spokesman Gareth Hughes said the Government was "gambling with New Zealand's economy" by allowing the exploration in deep water, "because if there is a leak there is no sure way to stopit".
Promotion of the petroleum industry was "not a smart way to run the economy", he said.
But Mr Jones, who has clashed with the Greens before over the prospect of mining in Northland and also over the party's criticism of the fishing industry, said Mr Hughes' opposition was premature.
"Let the information be uncovered first. It may be that the area is commercially barren, not unlike the minds conceiving that Green rhetoric."
Mr Jones did not think the prospects of any significant oil and gas industry in Northland in the short term were high, "but in the absence of information you can guarantee you'll never see it up there".
"Let these decisions be made in a rational fashion, not this kneejerk emotionalism that one comes to expect from the Green Party."
With Maori unemployment in some parts of Northland running at more than 25 per cent, it was important that the potential to develop new industries in the region was explored.
The chairman of Northland's Te Rarawa iwi, Haami Piripi, said he supported exploration for oil, gas and minerals where appropriate, but environmental protection was a bottom line.
However, Mr Piripi said the consultation referred to by Mr Heatley was not satisfactory because it was being conducted according to legislation which Te Rarawa opposed "because it fails to recognise any customary interests that we may have in minerals or the environment in which the minerals may exist".By Adam Bennett Email Adam