Date ArticleType
1/2/2018 Member News
Tatanaki MP Calls for Balance in Offshore Exploration Debate

Taranaki MP calls for balance in offshore exploration debate

Last updated 14:30, January 1, 2018

New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young has called for 'balance' in the discussion over offshore oil and gas exploration and potential harm to endangered marine mammal populations off the Taranaki coastline.

Environmental groups have recently organised protests tos top seismic testing in the Taranaki Basin, arguing the repetitive sound waves used to collect data disturb marine life, including the endangered Maui dolphin.

Oilfield services company Schlumberger New Zealand is currently carrying out testing off the coast of taranaki in their ship, the Amazon Warrior.

The altest protest, at Ngamotu Beach on Saturday, was the first of a number of planned protests by environmental group climate change Taranaki who hope to bring more awareness about future exploration in the region.

But Young, the Opposition energy and resources spokesman, said it was time for "some balance" in the argument against offshore exploration and production.

Claims that offshore exploration would harm endangered Maui dolphin population off the Taranaki coast were baseless, he said.

No deaths, or strandings of marine mammals have been directly linked to seismic surveying, he said.

Young said environmental groups, WWF-NZ and Greenpeace, had complained agains NZ Petroleum and Minerals awarding an exploration permit to Westside Corporation to explore for petroleum offshore in the Taranki Basin.

"Their argument is that this permit area is in the Maui dolphin's habitat."

Young said since 1922 only 26 Maui dolphin sightings have been recorded by the Department of Conservation in the Taranaki Basin, compared to 5157 sightings nationwide.

Among the Taranaki sightings were 15 seen from offshore exploration platforms.

"This in itself suggests these installations are not hazardous to the population as made out to be," he said.

"The threat of boat strike from recreational fishing and disease, such as toxoplasmosis are likely to be more threatening to the Maui dolphin population."

Research by Massey University in 2012 showed the disease caused the death of seven Hector's-type dolphins from 28 analysed by Massey University.

Two Maui dolphins, from three washed up dead on beaches, were found to have died primarily from the disease caused by the toxoplasma parasite, he said.

Young said there was no definitive answer from studies by DOC as to how seismic surveying affected marine mammals.

"Some animals or species have been reported as not reacting to the noise at all while others have been observed moving away when the vessel was many kilometres away," he said.

"Humpback whales have been observed moving rapidly away from the sound source, as well as moving rapidly toward it.

"The bottom line is that reactions can be very different depending on the species, location, type of noise, and other factors.

While no deaths or strandings of marine mammals have been directly linked to seismic surveying, naval sonar, which is very different type of loud sound, had been implicated in both, Young said.

"Naval sonar is often confused with seismic in popular media.

"Nonetheless, because a genuine concern exists about the potential effects of seismic surveying on marine mammals, the Department of Conservation has developed the code of conduct to minimise any potential risk.

"While Greenpeace and WWF-NZ may have genuine concerns, scientific research had identified stronger threats to their existence than seismic surveying or petroleum exploration."