More oil drilling in Maui’s dolphin sanctuary

I remember a time when the Government launched its annual oil and gas block offers with a big song and dance and much fanfare. As key a plank in National’s economic strategy, the releasing of onshore and offshore blocks of land and ocean for mining were big events with the media well primed to receive them. Eight years on, you can see how well the strategy has worked with a succession of companies giving up and leaving New Zealand and no current exploratory drilling activity. So this year the Government ‘dumped’ the news of this year’s block offer with a press release just before 5pm.

One thing that hasn’t changed though is the sheer size of the oil blocks offered. This year, the block offer proposes opening more than 500,000 square kilometers to onshore and offshore drilling and mining. That’s bigger than Spain!

Green shading shows the areas the Government is proposing to allow oil and gas drilling in. Credit: NZP&M
Green shading shows the areas the Government is proposing to allow oil and gas drilling in. Credit: NZP&M

Another constant is National’s callous disregard for the habitat of the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin – our endangered Maui’s dolphin. Approximately 4,000 square kilometres of the Maui’s dolphin sanctuary – roughly a third of its total area – is up for grabs by oil and gas companies. Seismic surveying involving extremely loud noises underwater is a real threat and we shouldn’t be mucking around with a species that only has around 55 adults left.

Meanwhile, National’s strategy to become the ‘Texas of the South’ is failing. We’ve seen Andarko leave, Petrobras leave, Apache leave, and a host of others give up their permits. Opening up another half a million square kilometres to mining and drilling smacks of desperation from a Government that doesn’t know how to build a sustainable, 21st century economy. It’s time to give up on this unimaginative economic strategy.

We can’t afford to burn around 70% of already discovered fossil fuels, let alone trying to find to find more to burn deep off our coasts.

New Zealand’s future is in clean energy and we have a wealth of solutions available that mean we don’t have to risk our coasts, seas, and amazing species.

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