Pursuit of oil dollars defies science and reason: Why do National hate Maui’s Dolphins?

By   /   June 25, 2014  /   52 Comments

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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.


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.

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  1. John W says:

    So links between National party members and big oil are stronger than any appreciation of the world around us and long term consequences of trashing it.

    If it looks like a pig, has its nose in the trough, devours practically anything with voracious greed and displays intelligence / cunning without circumspect for others, then surely it is presently on the benches of Govt.

    It won’t be a pig because a pig presents honestly.

  2. Afewknowthetruth says:

    The government is simply an agency to facilitate looting and polluting of this portion of the planet, for the short-term benefit of ‘the 1%’.

    Since all policy is driven by greed and stupidity, wrapped up in lies, we must expect the deterioration of everything that matters to accelerate.

    Once enough carbon dioxide (from burning fossil fuels) has been put into the atmosphere, the oceans will become too acidic for life as we know it to continue, and that will mark the end of most life on Earth.

    John Key and his cronies, and similar lunatics who pretend to be leaders elsewhere in the world, are working hard to bring forward NTE, Near Term Extinction. Current projections is for NTE to be achieved lie some time between 2040 and 2050.

  3. adam says:

    Hear, hear.

  4. countryboy says:

    Simon Bridges is a lawyer . ” They use lawyers in laboratories now because scientists have found there are some things even rats won’t do .” ( Robin Williams . )
    If bridges had enough money waved in front of him he’d wear paula bennett’s gigantic knickers on his head and change his name to judith collins by deep poll .
    There is only one solution to freaks like bridges . Get rid of him . He should never , ever be allowed to go any where near politics and the only ones who can purge us of him is Us .

    • Lara says:

      Countryboy – you can sign a petition to sack Simon Bridges here if you like.

      Signing away rights to explore Victoria Forest Park (200,000 hectares described by DoC as pristine) for mining, WITHOUT EVEN KNOWING IT WAS A FOREST PARK, really is a special kind of stupid.

    • McChristchurch says:

      A man was at the edge of a cliff crying.
      “Why are you crying?”
      “A bus with lawyers drove over the cliff and they’ve all been killed!” was the reply.
      “Are you crying because a lawyer friend of your was aboard the bus?”
      “Oh no….there were four seats empty!”

      It was going to be a bus full of National Party politicians on board. But who would believe that the party that promotes 10% of the population owning 90% of the wealth (and ultimately 1% owning 99% of wealth), would be seen riding on a bus.

  5. Intrinsicvalue says:

    There is no scientific evidence that oil exploration is a threat to Maui’s Dolphins. None. It’s pure scaremongering.

  6. Mike the Lefty says:

    I don’t think National hates Maui dolphins as such, it’s more that they are considered expendable in the hunt for black gold. When National bleat on about no recorded deaths of Maui dolphins in the present exploration area in the last 50 years they are misleading the public (as usual). The issue is that seismic surveys are harmful to the dolphins’ hearing and will drive them into areas where there is no protection for them, with an increased chance of dolphin deaths. Wouldn’t it be great if National told the truth about this issue, for once. I won’t hold my breath.

    • Draco T Bastard says:

      Wouldn’t it be great if National told the truth about this issue, for once.


      Course, if they did that then they wouldn’t get elected. As John Banks, ex-National MP, said:

      If I wear my policy on my sleeve, I won’t get elected.

      Which is possibly the only truthful thing he said in his entire career.

  7. This isn’t scaremongering. It’s a fact that cetaceans (whales and dolphins) are impacted by marine mineral extraction. This is known by scientists. DoC also commissioned a scientific report which assesses the risks from these activities and finds them untenable. In addition, this is Marine Mammal Sanctuary. Ie It’s a protected area. That should be enough, and the fact that Maui’s can’t sustain a single human induced death in 10-23 years if they’re to survive. The world’s experts agree that mining in their habitat can and will affect them and “if we want to make them extinct (Do we?), this is the way to do it”. No scaremongering here, just scientific fact.

    None of us are suggesting closing current oil wells. Just because there are no reports of Maui’s dolphins having been impacted by oil drilling in the past doesn’t mean there have been no effects. Under-reporting of dolphin mortality is notorious, and many beachcast specimens are too decomposed to properly identify cause of death. The fact is that seismic testing and other mineral extraction activities are lethal to whales and dolphins.

    • Priss says:

      National has opened a can of worms by allowing drilling and mineral extraction in marine reserves. It will not be a good look for them if dolphin numbers fall on Key’s watch.

      Even Key’s relaxed and casual attitude will not be of use to him if Maui’s dolphins become extinct during a National government.

    • Intrinsicvalue says:

      “It’s a fact that cetaceans (whales and dolphins) are impacted by marine mineral extraction.”


      “…and the fact that Maui’s can’t sustain a single human induced death in 10-23 years if they’re to survive. ”


      “Just because there are no reports of Maui’s dolphins having been impacted by oil drilling in the past doesn’t mean there have been no effects. ”

      No, of course not. You don’t need evidence to spout this stuff, just rhetoric.

      • framu says:

        “There is no scientific evidence that oil exploration is a threat to Maui’s Dolphins. None. It’s pure scaremongering.”

        “You don’t need evidence to spout this stuff, just rhetoric”

        you were saying?

      • Pasupial says:

        Seismic surveying involves using high-intensity acoustic sources to generate underwater sound, which is directed in a narrow, focused beam towards the seafloor. Towed arrays of hydrophones detect energy reflected from deep within the sub-seafloor formations, to give a detailed picture of structures. Depending on application, the underwater sound generated can be significant, and there is potential for a range of direct (physical trauma; for example, internal organ damage, hearing loss, decompression illness) and indirect (non-trauma; for example, masking communication/navigation, prey avoidance, behavioural) negative impacts on marine mammals. Impacts can be particularly pronounced in shallow waters, where dissipation of sound energy may be limited.


        • ANDYS says:

          Yes I know, I used to be a seismic geophysicist

          Not that anyone gives a damn of course

          • framu says:

            cool – you sound like you know some stuff then.

            What does emitting high intensity audio do to animals that use echo location?
            And is this more of a problem (or not) when its is done in an area that is deemed a sanctuary for the same animal because its almost extinct?

            thats the bit your avoiding – its being done inside a sanctuary for an almost extinct species that uses echo location to you know – survive

            • AndyS says:

              I don’t actually know what effect seismic exploration has on marine life, since I never studied that.

              However, I do know that a seismic survey is conducted by towing a long streamer of hydrophones, typically 4 km long, behind a boat. The hydrophones are basically listening devices

              The seismic waves are created by compressed air guns that fire at a regular interval of a few seconds or so. The “guns” are just pistons that form a sonic wave that is supposed to penetrate the subsurface of the seabed and reflect back information that can be used to determine the geological structure of the sub seabed.

              The guns are arranged into an array formation that utilizes wave interference to produce a focussed beam of energy in a downward direction.

              So the largest energy is directly below the boat, and this is the area at most risk to marine life.

              A seismic survey can take several weeks so this disturbance may be for the same period

              I am speculating that the direct risk of lung damage etc due to seismic waves is relatively low due to the focussed nature of the waves, but there may be more general issues with long term noise.

              I know that one boat operating in the North Sea in the 1980s could be “heard” by other seismic vessels operating across the entire North Sea.

              That’s my honest appraisal of what I know on the topic.

    • ANDYS says:

      NIWA have also been undertaking seismic surveying.
      Will you be lobbying to have this banned as well?

  8. Richard Christie says:

    The science denial is a mechanism to avoid telling the truth. It’s another set of lies.

    The truth is that the National Govt is perfectly happy to extinguish the species for a punt on short term return for oil.

    That’s right, they have no problem with it at all.

    • Intrinsicvalue says:

      Exaggerated claims, unsupported by evidence, discredit both the case and those who present it. That clearly applies in the case of Maui’s dolphins.

      • Draco T Bastard says:

        It’s not exaggerated at all. When confronted with facts our PM said it was “mumbo jumbo”. That clearly indicates that neither he nor National give a fuck about anything that prevents them having even more money.

  9. Murray Simmonds says:

    I watched Russell Norman questioning Key on this issue on the parliamentary TV channel yesterday.

    I was appalled by the arrogance of Key. Rather than address the questions and reply honestly and truthfully he merely spouted hackneyed, misleading comments like “No Maui doplhins have ever been killed by oil extraction . . . ” when in fact, if he were honest, then the very best he could have said is “. . . there is no RELIABLY RECORDED EVIDENCE that Maui Dolphins have been killed . . . ” (There’s a BIG difference!)

    Instead of reasoned discussion and debate on the topic (which I thought was the whole purpose of “Question Time”) Key time and time again resorted to mud-slinging and name-calling, referring to the “LOONEY” party and “LOONEY POLICIES” etc, etc.

    In short I was disgusted by Key’s performance. If that is the norm for parliamentary debate in this country, then as a taxpayer I feel severely shafted.

    • GM says:

      It is unfortunately the norm, and also unfortunately, the Opposition often get sucked down to John Key’s level.

      But John Key gets an easy ride from the MSM, which don’t slam his disrespect for Parliament and his fellow MPs like they should. Solution? Tell your friends about just how much of a boor he is and why he is an appalling PM. Baby steps to change.

  10. IntrinsicValue you ask for citations. I give you ‘Maui’s and Mining: A Review of Marine Mineral Mining Activity on the West Coast of New Zealand and its Potential Impacts’, K Johnston, independent report commissioned by DoC, 2012, with specific reference to Maui’s Plenty of international scientific literature about marine mining impacts on cetaceans.
    Also, the Govt’s Threat Management Plan for Maui’s dolphins (2010).
    You’ve got problems with your logic re: the absence of reported impacts – absence of proof doesn’t mean proof of absence. Who’s spouting rhetoric here?
    Our campaign for better protection of Maui’s (and Hector’s) comes from a scientific base. Where’s Simon Bridges – or yours- come from?

  11. Michael says:

    The answer to the question posed in your headline is easy: Dolphins don’t vote; neither do they pay money to politicians.

  12. GM says:

    On a tangent, your comment that

    (Labour’s position is unfathomable)

    is unfortunately not unique to this issue.

    This is one reason why Labour is struggling to make a dent in National’s polling. This is a clear issue of difference between the government of the 1% and the parties that should stand for the environment and the 99%. Why would Labour not have a clear position on this?

    The left should be unified against this madness. Labour not being on the same page just makes the other left parties look bad.

  13. countryboy says:

    @ Lara . Thank you x But sadly the link didn’t respond ?

  14. Eddy Monsoon says:

    Maybe its time to take it to the streets, Are there enough people who are prepared to stand up to Mr Key and Pals – maybe a few thousand should pay him a visit and highlight some of his underhand activities. We know that Labour is throwing this election (other head of the same corporate beast) Only ‘direct action’ will stop this madness. 50% of people have fallen for the capitalism love affair, most of our ‘new arrivals’ over the last 20 years have come to NZ to make money. The middle class is buying the GDP smoke and mirrors trick which distracts from the $113 per second in interest on Gov borrowing in the last 7 years and hoping Mr Key will lead them to the promised land of easy money. Which leaves between 10 and 15% of the population to make a stand, not enough to form a government……….so what to do? Take it to the streets, win the hearts and mind of people who love NZ ………..once more people see whats really going on then change will happen……….or is this just the ravings of just crazy old environmentalist………!!!

  15. Andy: Yes, there should be no seismic testing in Maui’s habitat. It’s not worth the risk. Seismic testing is proven to adversely affect cetaceans. We can’t ‘spare’ a single one if the species is to survive.
    Eddie Monsoon, and anyone else that cares on this issue, join us either in Wellington next Wednesday 2 July, where we’ll march to DoC, or Auckland on Sunday 13 where we’ll march to John Key’s office. For more, check our our events https://www.facebook.com/events/1467995926779371/?source=1 and https://www.facebook.com/events/650786461678794/?source=1 and visit our fb page https://www.facebook.com/groups/1518731841601174/

    • ANDYS says:

      Would you extend that to other dolphin species? it covers a lot of NZ coastline

      • framu says:

        depends if they are unique to NZ and almost extinct i guess

        pretty sure most other dolphins in NZ waters are either quite numerous or can be found in other countries

        • ANDYS says:

          So if they are not unique to NZ and/or close to extinction, you think that the potential risk of seismic exploration is OK then?

          • framu says:

            fucks sake andy – the issue is seismic testing in a maui dolphin sanctuary, not seismic testing any where that any dolphin might happen to swim past

            • ANDYS says:

              So the issue is the “sanctuary” rather than the actual well-being of the Dolphins?

              Is this just a red-tape issue?

              I’m trying to understand whether anyone here actually gives a monkeys about the Dolphins or whether they have just found another stick to beat the oil industry and the National party with.

  16. I don’t think we should be drilling more wells anyway, and that we need to lay off the planet, so no seismic testing generally. (yeah right). But when you realise we have some of the world’s rarest cetaceans here it does justify a precautionary approach. I also don’t think there should be these activities in a sanctuary. Full stop. Otherwise, what’s it for? If there are threats in there that are avoidable, it’s not a sanctuary. If we want Maui’s to survive we have to remove human threats from their habitat. The greatest threat are still gill nets, and we desperately need to change that too – not introduce new threats (or even more of the old ones).
    It’s just been discovered that Taranaki is home to one of the few Blue Whale foraging (breeding?) grounds in the world. You might say the whales and drilling have co-existed? Who knows, maybe there would have been more than 50 Blue Whales off Taranaki if it weren’t for the drilling. But it does mean we should be bloody careful. And they are some of the reasons the TTR sea bed mining application was declined. (Despite a $25million subsidy from the Govt)
    As for the cetaceans elsewhere around NZ waters – they’re pretty special too. Seismic testing is associated with strandings, on top of all their other hazards. Cetacean numbers are generally depleted, but we do get a surprising number of these amazing creatures in our waters. (Check out cetacean spotting new zealand on fb) We definitely should be avoiding harm. But I’m interested in what other people reckon too.

    • ANDYS says:

      So you think that we should stop all further exploration for oil and gas?

      This will have an interesting effect on the economy

      • John W says:

        The economy !

        The economy?

        The economy is what is killing the economy.

        What about survival.

        It is too late to save the economy and most of our future prospects to feed such a large population.

        The longer this “economy ” continues the less left and the smaller the population of survivors likely.

  17. Rosie says:

    It is sad that we could lose the dolphins. Simon Bridges, you and your cronies will go down in the history books as the people who destroyed Mauis dolphins and the beautiful countryside of NZ. What a shameful legacy that your family members now and in the future will have to live with. Perhaps that is worth thinking about more than the dollars in your pockets. Money cannot and will not buy everything we need in life.

  18. Here’s the link to the report about the impacts of Marine Mining on Maui’s Dolphins: http://www.epa.govt.nz/eez/EEZ000004/EEZ000004_Christine_Rose_Maui%27s_and_Mining.pdf

    • ANDYS says:

      I have never actually heard the term “marine mining” used in the context of offshore oil extraction.

      • John W says:

        Terrestrial mining, marine mining whatever. The supply of non renewable resources is rapidly diminishing with two thirds of what is available being exploited in the last 150 years. All the easy stuff is gone. Global rate of consumption has peaked and supply will become much harder unless we change our consumer habits. The environment damage escalates.

        Learning to live without damaging the world and fellow species is fundamental to having a future.

        Its a finite world with human population over shoot.

      • Consider yourself educated, Andy. 😉

  19. The point is, Andy, that mining harms dolphins. Marine Mammal Sanctuaries are supposed to protect them, especially when they’re the world’s rarest marine dolphin. So there should be no mining in their habitat. NZ has actually signed conventions to protect endangered species. We actually have a moral, and an international obligation here. It’s not about beating up the oil companies. It’s about not killing off a species.

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