Hundreds of marchers rallied in Kumeu this morning to call for stronger protection of the last 55 remaining Maui's dolphins.

About 300 protesters marched to John Key's Helensville electoral office to call on the Government to remove gill nets and stop oil and gas exploration in coastal areas where the world's smallest dolphin lives.

Organiser and chairwoman of Maui's & Hector's Dolphins Education/Action Inc, Christine Rose, said it was a message to Mr Key not just as Prime Minister, but as Minister for Tourism and Helensville MP.

"He was elected to represent the interests of this electorate, and there's a lot of people there from Helensville saying they want this area protected," she said.


Maui's dolphins inhabit coastal areas from Maunganui Bluff to Taranaki, but are concentrated along Auckland's West Coast.

Only the small habitat off the coast of Taranaki is currently under environmental protection.

Ms Rose said it was an issue at the heart of all New Zealanders, as well as people around the world.

"The broad political spectrum and across all ages want them saved, and call on the Government to do everything that's necessary to protect them and stop them from floating towards extinction" she said.

Members of Labour, Greens and NZ First spoke at the rally, as well as a representative from the Waitakere Ranges Local Board, who pledged funding to dolphin advocacy and protection.

Maui's dolphin are an inshore coastal species with limited home range, slow to breed, and only found in the West Coast of the North Island.

The species has been in rapid decline since the fishing practice of set-netting and trawling was introduced during the 1970s, when the dolphins numbered around 1800.

Only 55 remain, and the International Whaling Commission has warned they could face imminent extinction by 2031.