Showing posts with label Conservation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Conservation. Show all posts

Thursday, July 17, 2014



National hates dolphins II

Last month, we learned that National had allowed oil exploration in the marine mammal sanctuary which protects maui's dolphin. But it gets worse: it turns out that they've also opened a third of that sanctuary to seabed mining:

The Government has issued mineral mining permits in one third of the endangered Maui’s dolphin sanctuary, the Green Party has revealed today.

This follows revelations that permits have also been issued for oil exploration in the sanctuary.

There have been 254 Maui’s sightings within the areas where the mineral mining permits have been granted.


Maui's Dolphin is our most endangered species, and the rarest dolphin in the world. There are only 55 of them left. But rather than protecting them, National seems hellbent on driving them to extinction.

Thursday, June 26, 2014



Urgency for pillage

As I write, the House is in urgency to pass a law through all stages - without select committee consideration - allowing the pillage of windblown timber from the conservation estate. Beyond the obvious abuse of the Parliamentary process, its also a perfect example of the mindset of this government and their view of conservation. Most New Zealanders see the conservation estate as a way of protecting valuable parts of the natural environment for their own sake or for the enjoyment of future generations. National sees it as something which just locks up valuable resources which could be looted by their donors and cronies. They look at windblown native forests and see money lying around waiting to be picked up, which will go to "waste" if left to rot. I look at it and see the nutrient cycle in action, a vital part of the natural processes in these forests, which needs to be protected if we want them to survive.

Forest & Bird's Kevin Hackwell has made a strong case against the law here. It will damage the environment, and it will probably damage the industry it purports to support. Unmentioned is that we will likely see the bulk export of pillaged native logs overseas. National's donors and cronies in the resource extraction industry will do very well out of this. As for the rest of us, our conservation estate will be degraded for their profit.

This is not conservation. It is pillage, pure and simple. And while National may pass a law, we'll hopefully see the environmental movement take direct action to stop it from actually happening.

Friday, May 16, 2014



MBIE doesn't care about conservation

Last month, Minister of Energy Simon Bridges opened up vast areas of New Zealand for oil exploration. The offer area "just happened" to include our biggest forest park - a decision about which the Minister was apparently completely ignorant of - causing a certain amount of interest in whether he had properly considered conservation values in the decision-making process. Someone naturally asked over FYI, the public OIA requests site, and today the response came back: he didn't. The released documents show that conservation and environmental issues didn't really feature in the advice and that there was no advice on the underlying conservation values of particular areas proposed for exploration. In fact, MBIE officials were so unconcerned with conservation that they initially proposed including areas of schedule 4 land (which they would not grant permits for) in the offer simply to get pretty lines on the map:

While some small areas of Schedule 4 land have been included the release areas, this has been done so to maintain the integrity of the release areas for the tender process. No permits will be awarded over Schedule 4 land, World Heritage site or marine reserves.

[Briefing on Release of areas for consultation for Block Offer 2014, p 16 of response]

The Minister did at least realise how this would look, and squashed the idea immediately.

What about other conservation areas? A paper to the Cabinet Economic Growth and Infrastructure Committee [p. 30] makes their attitude clear:
While some of the proposed release areas do intersect marine mammal sanctuaries, as petroleum exploration activities are not incompatible with these sanctuaries, they have been included in the proposed release areas. Similarly, seamount closures and Benthic Protection Areas have also been included in the release areas as their restrictions only apply to fishing related activities.

In addition, the environmental effects of petroleum related activities are considered by different parts of the regulatory framework (such as the Resource Management Act 1991 and the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012) from those that are concerned with the allocation of rights through the issuing of permits.


Basically, as far as MBIE is concerned, conservation simply isn't their problem.

But that wasn't the only interesting thing to come to light. As part of the process, the Minister was required to consult with iwi about the areas proposed for release. Their submissions were then summarily ignored [p. 56]:
A total of 22 requests to protect certain areas or amendments to the consultation were received. These include 11 requests from iwi and hapu, and 11 from local authorities.

Officials have analysed these requests and, with regard to the majority of sites of sensitivity identified, officials consider that the best way to address concerns is to include sites within Block Offer 2014 and to then encourage and facilitate engagement between iwi and hapu and petroleum companies to find their own solutions for avoiding or minimising any impacts of petroleum exploration activities on or near sites of significance.


[Emphasis added]

A small number of changes were made (most notably the exclusion of the Kaikoura Marine Mammal Sanctuary), but again the attitude is that it is simply not their problem. Whether this is consistent with the government's duties as a treaty partner is left as an exercise for the reader.

Overall, the message is clear: MBIE doesn't care about conservation, or about the Treaty. For them, the "right" of foreign oil companies to drill where-ever they want trumps everything.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014



Is the Minister of Energy a muppet?

Last week Minister of Energy Simon Bridges opened up vast areas of New Zealand for oil exploration. But it came with a nasty surprise: the area includes our biggest forest park:

3 News can reveal the Government is opening up the Department of Conservation's (DOC) biggest forest park for oil and gas exploration.

That came as news even to the minister who signed it off, with Simon Bridges admitting today he had never heard of the park.

Victoria Forest Park is 200,000 hectares - DOC's biggest forest park, and is described by the department as "pristine" and "untouched".


For the Minister to approve this without even knowing it raises serious questions about his competence and that of his Ministry. Was he advised about it? If so, and he ignored it, then he's a total muppet. OTOH, if he wasn't, it suggests serious problems with MoBIE's economic development unit, which the Minister is ultimately responsible for. And either way, its crystal clear that National has no commitment whatsoever to conservation or our environment; if it can be bulldozed for profit, they'll sign off on it.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013



The cost of anti-environmentalism

National's refusal to protect the critically endangered Maui's Dolphin has been making international headlines. And now its drawn the inevitable response: a call for a boycott from a German environmental group:

A German conservation group is calling for a boycott of New Zealand seafood over our Government's heavily-criticised protection plan for Maui's dolphins.

NABU International says it will challenge what it believes is an inadequate approach to saving the critically endangered cetaceans in the High Court.

It's also urging the world not to buy New Zealand seafood.


This is what happens if the government deliberately undermines our "100% Pure" image: those industries who rely on it suffer.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013



This is what happens if you underfund public services

The Department of Conservation is missing almost all of its targets to protect our natural heritage:

DOC's annual report shows it's failing to do its job of preserving New Zealand's natural and historic heritage - a result of job cuts, the Green Party says.

According to its annual report, DOC failed to meet a number of self-imposed targets. Treatment of land for possums missed its target by more than 32,000 hectares, and only 60 per cent of planned possum operations were successfully completed.

Targets for the improvement of "chronically threatened", species and "at risk" and "threatened" plant and bird species were not met. A number of targets for improving the understanding of species and their threats were also not met.

No targets for the the maintenance and management of historic heritage sites were achieved.


DoC's budget in 2008/2009 - Labour's last year in power - was $416 million. Its budget now is $444 million. Accounting for inflation, its budget has been cut by $17 million in real terms. And after three rounds of restructuring - all supposedly aimed at shifting resources to the "frontline" - its beginning to have a serious effect. And either we're going to have to pay to fix it, or pay in lost biodiversity and recreational opportunities. But National probably see that as a bonus, in that the required increased spending to fix their mess can be labelled "waste' and "extravagance" and used to justify yet more attacks on public services.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013



This isn't conservation

So, having censored itself over the Ruataniwha dam, the Department of Conservation has now been caught conspiring with the Hawke's Bay Regional Council to flood a forest park for the scheme:

A legal loophole could let the Department of Conservation swap away 23 hectares of Ruahine Forest Park, to be flooded as part of a proposed Hawke's Bay dam project, without consulting the public.

Internal briefing documents show DOC advised Hawke's Bay Regional Council that a concession to flood a section of the park was unlikely to be granted. Instead, a way around that would be a land swap, which was its preferred position, it told the council.

Under the Conservation Act, DOC cannot exchange conservation land for private land unless it has been downgraded to stewardship land. Before any conservation land can be reclassified, it must go through a public consultation process.

But DOC spokesman Rory Newsam said in this case, Ruahine Forest Park had never been "formally gazetted" as conservation land - though it was "deemed to be managed" as conservation land.


This raises the obvious question of how much other land which we think is protected really isn't because DoC are muppets. But beyond that: isn't the purpose of DoC to conserve? Instead, they seem to be working hand-in-glove with those who want to pillage the conservation estate - our conservation estate - for private gain.

DoC should not be swapping land with people who want to ruin the environment. If the Hawke's Bay Regional Council's dam requires flooding a forest park, then that means they can't build it there. It's that simple.

Thursday, September 26, 2013



The rot goes deeper

So, it turns out the rot of the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme goes deeper. First, we have MPI apparently being gagged as well:

“MPI advised it had ‘similar concerns’ and intended to lodge a submission. Those concerns included the adequacy of the phosphorous management, lack of definition of industry best practice, the use of a nutrient management system called OVERSEER and concerns about the economics of the dam.

“However, these concerns were considerably watered down in MPI’s final submission and the Ministry did a 180 degree turn on the economic impacts. The draft said the dam would be negative, the final submission said it would be positive. Why the change?


And today in Question Time we learn that GNS Science was contracted by the Hawkes' Bay Regional Council to report on groundwater for the scheme, but that they too were gagged after they concluded that information provided by HBRC was seriously flawed and could not be relied upon. Together, it paints a picture of a government hell-bent on irrigating to benefit its farmer-cronies, and willing to stomp all over normal procedure to ensure that their pet project goes ahead.

Which invites the question: can the EPA be trusted to fairly assess the project? Or will they too be politically directed to ensure the desired outcome? Which also shows us the real problem: once Ministers start interfering in processes like this, the outcomes can simply no longer be trusted. If the scheme is approved, it will be tainted by the suggestion of political pressure. And that's not good for anyone.

Friday, September 20, 2013



More lies from Smith

Yesterday in Question Time Nick Smith continued to pretend that he had not forced DoC to shitcan its submission on the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme. He even went so far as to claim that he had no idea that the submission even existe duntil this week. But it was just more lies:

Another leaked document shows Conservation Minister Nick Smith is playing fast and loose with the facts, the Green Party said today.

The document leaked today is the briefing note from the 29th of July meeting when Dr Smith was briefed by Deputy Director-General Doris Johnston on the department’s submission. It clearly shows:
  • The Minister was briefed that the Department of Conservation (DOC) was going to make a submission;
  • The Minister was told that the submission would focus around water quality and nutrient limits and targets; and
  • The Minister was told that the submission was going to be “in the name of the Director-General”, not Nick Smith.
The full briefing note is here. So, Smith is briefed, he then tells the Director-General that he is "concerned" about the submission, and within 48 hours it is pulled and replaced with an empty submission which takes no position on whether the project should go ahead. And DoC made this decision itself, in accordance with its "standard processes"? Yeah, right. The evidence is clear: Smith interfered with his department to prevent it from carrying out one of its statutory functions. He should be sacked.

Thursday, September 19, 2013



Smith lied to Parliament

Yesterday in Question Time Conservation Minister Nick Smith was repeatedly asked whether he had given any indication to DoC about its submission on the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme. Eventually, after repeated evasions, he denied it. Naturally, he was lying:

A leaked email from the deputy director of conservation says Dr Smith had some concerns about the draft DoC submission to the Board of inquiry into the Hawke's Bay dam and wanted to see it.

[...]

The email leaked to Radio New Zealand was circulated to senior Department of Conservation staff, including the director general, and says Dr Smith wanted to see DoC's submission before it was lodged with the Board of Inquiry.


Contrary to Smith, that's a pretty strong "indication". In Ministerese, "some concerns", and "I want to see it" means "burn this thing and shred all copies". So, Smith interfered in the process, and lied to Parliament about it. That's unacceptable, and he should resign as a Minister.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013



More censorship at DoC

The Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme is a plan by the Hawke's Bay Regional Council to build a dam to provide greater irrigation for dairy farmers. The plan would ruin the Tukituki River, filling it with cowshit and toxic algae, so in accordance with its statutory duty under the Conservation Act, DoC wrote a detailed submission opposing it. But the Minister censored them:

A draft Department of Conservation submission on the Ruataniwha Dam water storage project says the Hawke's Bay Regional Council proposal is a risky and untested approach to water management which could kill the rivers involved.

The draft submission obtained by Radio New Zealand News was written for the Board of Inquiry into the dam, but was not submitted. Instead, DoC submitted a brief "neutral" document which does not raise concerns about what could happen to water quality and the dangers for at-risk fish species in the Tukituki and Waipawa Rivers and tributaries.


And there's no doubt it was the Minister - Nick Smith basicly admits his guilt here:
Smith said he simply told the department "they needed to be careful" when making submissions in his name on an issue where he was the final decision-maker.

"The board of inquiry is there to make decisions about plan changes in respect of Ruataniwha, and the board of inquiry, after it's considered its submissions, it makes a recommendation about a plan-change decision that ultimately I make," he said.

"Now for me then to be making submissions to that board of inquiry strongly advocating one point of view or other ... is one that the department needs to be careful of."


Of course the Department doesn't make submissions in the name of the Minister - it makes them in accordance with its statutory functions, which include advocating for conservation and preserving freshwater fisheries. Nick Smith stopped them from doing that. It is a gross interference in the functions of a department. But with National, its "anything goes" if it benefits farmers.

Monday, August 05, 2013



Reported back

The Local Government and Environment Committee has reported back on the Conservation (Natural Heritage Protection) Bill, recommending it be passed with amendments. Among the amendments is a new part increasing penalties under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 for violating marine mammal sanctuaries, apparently sparked by my quick submission. So, submitting on a bill made a positive difference.

The bill is a member's bill, so it will be a couple of months at least before it becomes law.

Friday, June 07, 2013



Pillaging the conservation estate again

Here we go again: National is again planning to pillage the conservation estate:

Most of the area the Government is considering offering for platinum exploration is conservation land.

Six parcels of land making up 4422 square kilometres are proposed for exploration in the South Island, of which 76% forms part of the conservation estate.

Within those areas are key sites renowned for their landscapes or biological diversity and environmentalists are demanding they be removed from the bidding selection.


Given their repeated attempts at this, you'd get the impression that the government does not know what "conservation" means. Maybe they should spend some of their enormous Ministerial slush funds on buying a dictionary.

Thursday, May 23, 2013



Selling out the conservation estate

So, as expected Nick Smith has granted Bathurst Resources an access agreement to turn the Denniston Plateau into a giant open-cast coal mine. But don't worry! The government is getting paid for it!

“The loss of conservation values is compensated by a $22 million package by Bathurst Resources. This will fund pest and predator control over 25,000 hectares of the Heaphy River catchment in the Kahurangi National Park, 4,500 hectares on and around the Denniston Plateau, as well as for historic projects on the Plateau itself. This is the largest ever compensation package negotiated by DOC for a mine or other commercial venture.

In other words, Nick Smith has just agreed to effectively sell part of our conservation estate for thirty pieces of silver. Not that he actually sold it, of course, because that would require a much tougher assessment, so instead he's leasing it for the purpose of being destroyed.

It will be interesting to see what the official advice says about this. Access agreements to Crown land must have regard to "the objectives of any Act under which the land is administered" (in this case "to promote the conservation of New Zealand's natural and historic resources") and to the purpose for which the land is held. And the advice will emerge - either under the OIA or as part of discovery in the inevitable application for judicial review. If its not absolutely bulletproof, than it will be overturned. And on that front the mere timing of the decision - the day before greater consultation requirements were due to come into force - provides prima facie evidence of bad faith on the part of the Minister. The last thing he wanted was the public being given a chance to have our say on the issue.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013



The corruption of high-country tenure review

The government privatises a state-owned asset for $265,000. Four years later, a small part of it gets flicked on for $10 million. A tale from some corrupt African nation, or from post-Soviet Russia? No, its from New Zealand, an example of high-country tenure review:

Alpha Burn Station on the southern shores of Lake Wanaka and on the road to the Treble Cone skifield is one of more than 100 high-country farms that have been through tenure review in the past 20 years.

Brower says that in 2002, the Crown sold 3365 of the 4579-hectare station to leaseholders Don and Vicki McRae for $267,500, the equivalent of $79.50 per ha.

The Crown then bought pastoral leasehold rights for grazing and conservation of the remaining 1214ha - higher-altitude land - for $202,500, or $166.83 per ha.

She says the McRaes then subdivided the newly freeholded land and sold just 193ha of it to Damper Bay Estates in October 2006 for $10.1 million, according to Quotable Value data.

"That's 658 times what they paid. Translated into urban terms, this is like selling a section for $100,000 then seeing it sold on for $65.8m four years later."

Brower said the 658 times multiplier was, however, "quite reasonable" compared with some other deals.

Less than half of the leasehold land the Crown had sold for $6.9m had since sold for $135.7m.

"These subdividers have on-sold land for a price per hectare ranging from 1.8 to 27,096 times the price they paid. The median multiplier was 992.

[Emphasis added. Yes, that's right, the median gain is a thousand times the initial outlay]

This process has been going on for fifteen years, ever since the passage of the Crown Pastoral Land Act in 1998; its been pushed by both parties, driven by the goal of providing "clear ownership" (as if government ownership was somehow unclear). But massive systematic undervaluing by LINZ has allowed farmers to reap windfall gains, with unearned superprofits flowing into the private pockets of the few.

This process is simply organised corruption. It has to stop. And those unearned superprofits need to be reclaimed for the people of New Zealand. Anything less is allowing farmers to get away with their pillage and plunder.

Thursday, April 04, 2013



The consequences of eroding the public service

Back in 1999, the public service had undergone a decade and a half of cuts. One of the consequences was an increasingly narrow focus on "core business", and the dumping of functions deemed unnecessary. The New Public Management meant managing to targets, so if it wasn't in the KPIs, it didn't get done. The net result? When they went to run the 1999 election, the Department of the Courts (who had previously provided returning officers and polling staff, as well as the institutional knowledge of people who had done it for years) decided that running elections was not its job and withdrew its staff. Which meant that on election night, we didn't get results until 3am.

Why am I thinking of this all of a sudden? Because the cash-strapped Department of Conservation has similarly decided that a longstanding service which it provides - rural fire-fighting - is not really its job and is cutting back its rural fire crews. It just costs too much money to have these people trained and equipped to stop the conservation estate - and other parts of the countryside - burning down. While DoC will save money in the short term, this erosion of capability is going to have long-term effects. If we're lucky, it will simply transfer the costs elsewhere - someone else will step in to fill the role that DoC is withdrawing from (making the "saving" largely illusory if it is a public body). If not, then the consequences could potentially be fatal. But hey, that'll be on Someone Else's Budget...

The scary thing is that DoC has been here before. Cuts and capacity erosion were directly implicated in the Cave Creek disaster. They - or rather, their Minister - seem to have learned nothing.

Thursday, March 28, 2013



The Orcs are back

Three years ago Kiwis took to the streets to stop the government from digging up our national parks. The government apparently backed down - but like rust, National never sleeps. And now they're trying to devastate our natural heritage again, issuing exploration permits for schedule 4 protected land:

The Government is allowing mineral prospecting on protected conservation land despite promising in 2010 no mining will be allowed on such high-value estate.

Eight consents have been granted to prospect and explore for coal and other minerals in Coromandel and the West Coast's Paparoa National Park.

That's despite public outrage in 2010 when the government proposed freeing up some conservation land for mining. It was forced to back down and promised there would be no mining.


There is no reason to issue these permits unless the government is planning to mine. Issuing exploration permits while mining is forbidden is simply daft. So, it looks like National lied to us in 2010, and that the pillage of our natural heritage is back on.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013



National guts conservation again

Another day, and another bunch of public servants sacrificed to the Moloch of austerity. Today its the Department of Conservation, where 140 jobs are going. To try and put a positive spin on things, the government is saying that they are "largely regional management and administration positions" - "they're just managers, nothing important here". But the blunt fact is that these people do important tasks, and cutting them is going to impact badly on DoC's ability to protect, manage, and enable access to the conservation estate for the enjoyment of New Zealanders.

When we think of DoC, we think of National Parks, great walks, and endangered species. So the people we think of as "frontline staff" whose demise would affect our experience are the people who maintain the tracks, the people who maintain the huts, and the people who babysit the Kakapo. But behind them there's a host of people who do the planning and monitoring, who decide what goes where, where people are visiting (and so which bits need extra tracks and huts), and whether the impacts are acceptable. They also do things like processing and monitoring concessions - consents for businesses to use the conservation estate by e.g. running a white-water rafting business, building a treetop walkway to show off our native species in a new light, or whether to build a monorail. They assess and track the conservation value of different parts of the estate, allowing them to provide factual advice when the Minister of Energy wants to stick a coal mine on it. And they fulfil the Department's statutory function to advocate for conservation values, by using their local knowledge to inform local resource consent decisions. While its "back office", these are important functions. Cutting them is going to mean that stuff doesn't get planned, monitored, processed, or advocated for - which in turn is going to mean a poorer end-user experience. And depending on whether they adopt a precautionary or flailing approach to the administrative overstretch, it is either going to mean reduced public access (as they deny access where impacts cannot be properly measured), or a long-term degradation of the conservation estate (as they let things past which shouldn't be). Most likely both.

Despite National's rhetoric, there is no free lunch in public sector austerity. There is no "waste" that can magically be cut to save money without impacting on service delivery. These cuts are going to hurt DoC's core functions. And we need to hold National accountable for them.

(But I guess this is what happens to a department which tells Gerry Brownlee that its not OK to dig up our national parks...)

Thursday, January 24, 2013



Ending the plunder

Yesterday I blogged about a report that an un-named fishing company was allegedly plundering the Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary. While this is illegal, the penalties in the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 have not been updated for at least 15 years, have been eroded due to inflation, and clearely provide no deterrant.

In response to that post, Mike McGavin pointed out Jacqui Dean's Conservation (Natural Heritage Protection) Bill, which is currently seeking submissions before the Local Government and Environment Committee. The bill updates the penalties for numerous bits of conservation legislation to correct for the effects of inflation and bring them more into line with modern environmental values. However, the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 is not one of them. Mike suggested I submit on the bill proposing that it also amend penalties under this Act - and that's exactly what I've done. Here's my submission below:

  1. I support the Conservation (Natural Heritage Protection) Bill and ask that it be passed with the amendments below.

  2. The bill updates the penalty clauses of various conservation and wildlife protection legislation to correct for the effects of inflation and bring them more into line with the penalties in more modern legislation. In some cases these penalties have not been updated for more than thirty years, making them nominal and severely reducing their deterrent value.

  3. However, the bill makes a significant oversight in not updating penalties for offences under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978. Like the Acts in this bill, the Act is administered by the Department of Conservation. Section 23 of the Act provides for a penalty of a $30,000 fine for purse seining in a marine mammal sanctuary, and a $10,000 fine for any other offence under the Act. The penalties have not been updated since at least 1996, and have been significantly eroded by inflation. Other legislation - for example the Marine Reserves Act 1971 - provides for much stronger penalties for violating similarly important conservation areas, including the forfeiture of fishing vessels upon conviction. The penalties for violating a Marine Mammal sanctuary should be increased to a similar level.

  4. The need for a stronger penalties regime in this Act has been brought to my attention by a media report of fishing companies plundering the Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary. The law is clearly not acting as a deterrent to this behaviour. While s25(g) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 means that increased penalties will not be able to be applied to any prosecution in this case, they will hopefully deter others from doing so in the future.

  5. I do not wish to appear before the Committee.
Submissions will be open until the end of February. If you'd like to strengthen our protection of marine mammals, and end the plunder of their sanctuaries, I suggest writing up a similar submission and submitting it here. This is not a bill which is likely to attract a lot of submissions, so speaking up on it will make a difference. And if it doesn't, I'm sure Labour or the Greens would be willing to take a Member's Bill to solve the problem.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013



Plunder

Back in 1988, the government created new Zealand's first marine sanctuary around Banks Peninsula in order to protect the endangered Hector's Dolphin. In 2008, they extended it. But apparently at least one of our major fishing companies is refusing to accept this, and is plundering the sanctuary under cover of darkness:

Conservation group Earthrace said it saw many boats from a well-known fishing company in the Banks Peninsula Marine Mammal Sanctuary during surveillance it carried out earlier this year.

The sanctuary is home to the endangered Hector's dolphin.

The surveillance involved observations from a plane, motor boats, kayaks and hilltops around the peninsula over a 10-day period.

Earthrace founder Pete Bethune said fishing boats steered clear of the sanctuary during the day but at night moved in and began gill netting and trawling, techniques known to trap and kill dolphins.


The Ministry of Primary Industries is investigating, and hopefully they'll find enough evidence to prosecute. OTOH, the penalties for violating the sanctuary are ridiculously low - a $10,000 or $30,000 fine - and so are unlikely to provide any real deterrant or punishment for offenders. Contrast this with the penalties available for violating a marine reserve: a $250,000 fine, imprisonment, and forfeiture of fishing vessels on conviction. Isn't it time we protected our marine mammal sanctuaries to the same extent?