The South Taranaki Bight is an important feeding ground for critically endangered Antarctic blue whales and is a habitat for 37 other species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises. Their existence is under threat from destructive seabed iron sands mining and other exploration for fossil fuels and minerals. The Green Party will:
- Create a marine mammal sanctuary off the South Taranaki coast, working with iwi, affected communities, the Department of Conservation, and other experts.
- Prohibit any seabed mining permits and new petroleum and mineral prospecting permits in the sanctuary.
The Green Party will create a new marine sanctuary, that will prevent destructive seabed mining and phase out existing extractive activity, under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978.
The sanctuary would be New Zealand’s largest at around 30,000 square km, to cover the area where blue whales have most commonly been sighted. The exact boundaries would be confirmed following negotiation with iwi and affected communities, and advice from the Department of Conservation (see map).
Iron sand seabed mining vacuums up the entire seabed, filters out minerals, and dumps everything back. Sediment generated from seabed mining can affect whales’ ability to find and capture krill, their primary food source, and the disruption caused by ships and other mining activities including seismic blasting may drive the whales away.
Ngāti Ruanui, alongside other iwi and hapū from South Taranaki, and Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM), have been campaigning for a moratorium on seabed mining. The Green Party supports the kaitiaki rights of Ngāti Ruanui and other iwi.
By creating the South Taranaki Whale Sanctuary we can stand up to the mining industry, help protect whales and dolphins, and create sustainable local jobs through eco-tourism ventures. Preventing more fossil fuel exploration will also help protect our beaches from the risk of oil spills, and uphold our commitment to transitioning to clean energy.
This policy is included in our Confidence and Supply Agreement, and our Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage is working to establish the sanctuary.