Red Alert

Archive for the ‘Maui’s and Hector’sdolphins’ Category

I seek leave to make a personal explanation …..

Posted by on July 30th, 2012

I see I am getting a bit of gyp from critics in the blogosphere whose latest fantasy is that I lack an environmental ethic.

Their mistake is they think that a healthy environment stands in opposition to a healthy economy.

I don’t rise to the bait too often, but on this occasion I will bite and lay out my record.

Some of these critics should do their homework.

I am 52 years of age. I tramp, ski, and swim in rivers and the sea. I have been fighting for environmental causes most of my life.

As a lawyer I fought for conservation orders that now protect many of the south island’s rivers including the Mataura, the Buller, the Ahuriri, the Greenstone, the Dart, the Lochy, the von, and the Kawarau. 

I am still active in river protection. This year I am appearing pro-bono as an expert witness on energy policy in support of the Fish and Game application to protect the Nevis river from damming.

As Minister of Energy I halted the decline in renewable electricity as a % of total generation, set an objective of 90% renewables by 2025 and put in place a myriad of initiatives to achieve that end. That objective has survived the change to National, and good progress is being made towards it. Together with Jeanette Fitzsimons, I also promulgated the most ambitious energy efficiency and conservation strategy we had ever had, and played a strong hand in the design and funding of the insulation retrofit programme that National continued with.

As Minister of Energy I added substantially to the lands protected from mining by extending schedule 4 protection to all parts of national parks not then protected, including Kahurangi.

As Minister of Land Information I revamped tenure review, helped form a number of conservation parks, including the Otiake Park in the Hawkduns, stopped tenure review around lakes and rebalanced the relationship between the Crown and lessees. National has reversed some of those changes.

As Acting Minister for the Environment I unblocked the national policy statement on freshwater quality. Trevor Mallard continued this work culminating in the very good NPS proposed by Judge Shepherd et al, which was then neutered by National.

As Minister of Climate Change I successfully legislated to price greenhouse gases in all sectors of the economy covering the 6 main gases covered by the Kyoto protocol. New Zealand remains the only country in the world to have achieved that. I was named Environmentalist of the year in 2008 by the Listener for that and other initiatives.
Changes by National and a loss of momentum internationally collapsing the price of carbon have undermined it, but the architecture remains sound. It is Labour’s policy to bring agriculture in to the ETS.

While in government I read about set nets causing the deaths of Hector’s and Maui dolphins. After confirming with Chris Carter that this was intend a serious problem I approached Helen Clark who, with Jim Anderton’s help, vastly expanded the areas where set nets were banned.

I have had high profile run-ins with proponents of lignite developments, including Solid Energy’s Don Elder.
As Labour’s then spokesperson for conservation, I helped lead Labour’s successful campaign against National’s plans to allow mining in schedule 4 National parks, Coromandel, Great Barrier Island etc. For those with a sense of humour, my Christmas interchange with Gerry Brownlee on the issue, in which Gerry starred, remains the most watched clip from parliament.

I have spoken often on the need to better protect our albatross and petrels from being killed as by-catch. Similarly, I am a defender of lowland wetlands against reclamation, and against degradation caused by intensification of nearby land use.

I have been a defender of the RMA, while wanting to improve its reputation by addressing some of its arcane and hard to defend processes.

I am happy to stand on my record on environmental matters.

Which is why it annoyed me to be told I am out to lunch on mining issues.

Having a clean environment means making sure we use our natural resources responsibly. It doesn’t mean we stop using all of them.

That’s why, outside of schedule 4 areas, mining applications can and should be considered case by case.

As I said when interviewed, there is legitimate public concern about deep sea drilling arising from the Gulf of Mexico catastrophe and the limitations of New Zealand’s response to the Rena shipwreck. We must ensure that world’s best practice is followed and that the safety devices needed in the event of mishap are available and can be deployed. Even then, it may be that the deepest of wells are too risky and ought not to proceed.

In terms of lignite, I reiterated that Labour believes its use as an energy source using current technology is a dirty greenhouse gas intensive practice. We are also unconvinced it is economic, especially if environmental consequences are included, and have said government money should be  spent on renewables instead.

Our position on developments in the EEZ is that RMA type principles should apply. We sit between the Greens (who would ban most development activities) and National, whose EEZ legislation, while initially supported by the Greens, is inadequate.

We can develop our resources responsibly and make responsible decisions for our future – and a sustainable economy requires it.

Maui’s dolphins – last chance to save them

Posted by on April 19th, 2012

The DOC submissions on the Intrim extension of the Marine Mammal Sanctuary and Seismic Survey Regulations to Manage the Risk of Maui’s Dolphin Mortality has been extended from today until midday Friday next week, 27th April. I put my submission in today and said this –
I would like to begin by welcoming the Department of Conservation’s document, offering interim additional measures for protection of Maui’s dolphins, until the Threat Management Plan is undertaken and recommendations as a result of this are implemented. The imminent extinction of Maui’s dolphins is unacceptable to us as a developed natio, particularly as one which relies on our “clean, green” image to survive. Our international reputation, particularly in regard to marketing our fish and promoting tourism would be irreparably damaged should we be seen to be taking anything other than all possible actions to save this subspecies.

So, whilst welcoming these proposals and understanding the criticality of action, I do not believe that these proposals go to the extent necessary to deliver what is required – a change in the trend of declining number of Maui’s – and an assurance of their survival.

Unfortunately, the current sanctuaries do not include management of the key threats. Whilst it is an admirable suggestion to extend the boundaries of the sanctuaries, it is not satisfactory to do that without ensuring that effective protection measures are in place. Reading the MAF document on the same topic alongside the DOC document is frustrating, givent aht although they state a shared objectie, and cross reference the consultation documents and submission process, they do not have an “across Deparment” approach. Without such an approach, based on shared evidence and best practice, we risk having a weakened approach to protection. Moreover, this approach also fuels the temptation of the discussion being framed in a “conservation vs fishing” environment, when this is clearly not the best frame for the overall wellbeing and survival of the dolphins.

Having different boundaries, different rules and different management regimes is problematic and could lead to claims of consuion within the fishing industry. It is my view that, givent he critical nature of the Maui’s dolphins numbers, that a more rigorous regime, clear, evidencebased, monitored and enforced by bth agencies, would be more likely to succeed.

I attach with this submission, a copy of my submission on the MAF proposals, so that you can be clear about the point that I am making in regard to the variations.

Within DOC’s boundaries, there should be no gillnets or trawling. That must be one of the “specific activities” that the Minister restricts. I agree that there should be restrictions on seismic activities. But the sanctuary areas, the prohibition on gillnets and trawling, and the restriction on seismic activity must all, of necessity, be a precautionary approach. The proposal of out to 12 nautical miles is supported but I believe that both MAF and DOC regimes should more logically consider the use of depth contours and, as I said earlier, be consistent.

The social media and standard media commenting on this issue has been of the order of the international commentary around the kakapo and the Chatham Island Robin. We can be very proud of the conservation efforts made in regard to these two birds. It is now vital that we take equally focussed measures in regard to saaving the Maui’s dolphins.

Dedicated staff with expertise in marine mammals must be given resources and the mandage to be leaders in this regard. Without such commitment and leadership from the Department of Conservation these proposals, however strengthened, run the risk of failing, and that is not a risk that New Zealand shold be prepared to take.

A big challenge – please deliver on it!

Posted by on March 19th, 2012

Sometimes jobs you do as a Minister are really challenging and really satisfying. You can tell if a Minister is up to the job when they meet those challenges. The jury is out on Kate Wlilkinson and David Carter in regard to the big decision they are soon to make. It has to be one of the biggest responsibilities of all – saving or destroying a species. The very future existence of the Maui’sdolphins depends on their decision. There are around 55 Maui’s dolphins left – in total – on the planet. Hard to get closer to being extinct. The Ministers are now consulting about extending the set net bans. Set nets are one of the human induced death traps for dolphins. And they have
brought forward the recovery plan for these dolphins from next year to this year.
So what would I do if I was the Minister of Conservation? I would put the dolphins first. I would do every single thing possible to make sure that this wonderful dolphin was available for our grandchildren and their grandchildren to see, to swim with, and to enjoy.
It is a big challenge. With only 55 Maui’s left, there is literally no time to waste. But there is plenty that can be done.
No population of this size is sustainable without intervention to reduce every possible avoidable death. I would eliminate fisheries by catch. Gill nets and trawl nets in their habitation areas must stop. There are sustainable fishing methods available. I would want them to be the only methods used in these areas. And these areas need to extended in a principled precautionary approach. Protection should extend across the Taranaki Coast and south to at least Cape Egmont. Tasman and Golden Bays also need to be included.
And the relationship between the South Island and North island populations needs to be considered and protected.
So Labour’s commitment is to do everything possible to save these dolphins. Yes, it’s a big ask but we can do it.
Dolphins as fishing by catch has to be eliminated.
Population monitoring has to be rigorous, and transparent with the aim of restoring the population to their original population size for Hector’s andMaui’s by 2100.
Ban gill net and trawl fisheries in waters shallower than 100m. This is great for dolphins and also for seabirds and fish stocks.
We can do this. It does seem a big call, but, with the right actions, we can stop these dolphins from becoming extinct. And that’s worth it.