We’ve almost come to expect the Government’s dismissal of good science, ever since our Prime Minister denied the evidence presented by Dr Mike Joy about the state of our rivers, on BBC’s Hard Talk TV programme. The Government denies all sorts of evidence that damns their performance in other indicators too – like poverty.
But the Government’s latest triumph of ideology over science came last week. When the Green Party publicised the decision by Simon Bridges as Minister of Energy and resources, to allow oil and gas extraction in the Maui’s Dolphin Marine Mammal Sanctuary, both Nick Smith and Simon Bridges contradicted world experts and disputed scientific evidence in the interests of spin.
The North Island’s Maui’s Dolphins are the rarest marine dolphin in the world. From about 2000 in the 1970s, only about 55 adults now remain. They’re dispersed along the West Coast in small groups between Northland and Taranaki. They can sometimes be seen from West Coast beaches where they occasionally swim with surfers. But they also come into West Coast harbours, and out to at least 6nm from shore. Currently their greatest threat is gill nets, as trawling is allowed to 2nm from shore. That leaves a huge area unprotected, and there are virtually no observers on boats to assess the damage. The dolphins face the additional threats of seismic testing, boat strike, pollution, prey depletion (from oil and gas extraction) and toxoplasmosis.
Scientists agree Maui’s dolphins can’t sustain a single human induced death in 10-23 years if they are to survive. The International Society of Marine Mammology last year called on the Government to protect the Maui’s’ entire habitat. The International Whaling Commission for the third year running, did the same. Jane Goodall has further discredited the Government’s latest moves.
Yet Simon Bridges and this Government have not only failed to protect the dolphins throughout their range, but they have introduced oil and gas mining permits into their Marine Mammal Sanctuary and allowed ring netting back into the Manukau Harbour.
Nick Smith in Parliament said no dolphins are found in the part of the Marine Mammal Sanctuary opened for drilling, and said ‘Show me the Maui”. He didn’t look at DoC’s own website, which shows 10 Maui’s sightings in the area. Fortunately the Greens have exposed this mistruth. (Labour’s position is unfathomable).
In yesterday’s question time John Key said world experts calling for better protection was ‘mumbo jumbo’. Nick Smith dismissed the 80,000 submissions in favour of saving the dolphins, last year. They do admit that set nets are the dolphins’ greatest threat but have failed to remove them from Maui’s’ habitat.
The Government piles threat upon threat onto these lovely wee dolphins. They pretend Maui’s advocates want to close down existing oil wells. No one has suggested that, but as we’ve seen, neither science, nor reason, mean much to this Party in their pursuit of oil dollars.