The vessel Southern Express has begun a seismic survey for Greymouth Petroleum off the coast of Waitara and west towards New Plymouth. The survey area is within the West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary.
“It is appalling that the government would allow oil companies to look for more fossil fuels during a climate and ecological crisis. And to do that within our critically endangered Māui Dolphin’s home range is extremely irresponsible,” said Catherine Cheung, Climate Justice Taranaki spokesperson.
“What’s the point of all these big talks of emissions reduction and adaptation plans, when the key actions of ending fossil fuel exploration and protecting our ecosystems are ignored? Is this not hypocrisy?” said Cheung.
The Marine Mammal Sanctuary was established in 2008 to protect the Hector’s and Māui dolphins. It extends alongshore from Maunganui Bluff in Northland to Taputeranga Marine Reserve on the south coast of Wellington, to 12 nm offshore. In 2020, the southern boundary of the sanctuary was extended from Oakura Beach to the south Wellington coast.
“Seismic surveys and other activities related to oil, gas and other marine mining activities have no place in the dolphins’ habitat. Forest & Bird has long been concerned that a number of loopholes in the Threat Management Plan mean precious animals like Māui dolphins won’t really be protected until 2046 – by which time they could already be extinct,” said Elvisa Van Der Leden, Forest & Bird Taranaki Regional Conservation Manager.
Although seismic survey is supposed to be prohibited within the entire Sanctuary, there are plenty of exemptions such as an existing petroleum permit or an existing privilege. Again, the fossil fuel industry can get away with anything it seems.
Climate Justice Taranaki is inviting the public to come along to a rally at Waitara Marine Park (West Beach) this Saturday 28th May 1-3pm to express our objection to further fossil fuel exploration and to brainstorm community action for a truly restorative future,” concluded Cheung.
The 263.5 square km seismic survey area, authorised under section 42A of the Crown Minerals Act in January 2022, falls outside Greymouth Petroleum’s current mining license PMP50509 on and offshore of New Plymouth. The 2018 ban of new offshore petroleum exploration does not affect the operations and privilege of existing permit holders.