The opposition in New Zealand, Green Party of Aotearoa, has criticised the government of approving mining permits at the endangered Maui's dolphin sanctuary, claiming it will threaten their existence.
Green Party claimed that seabed-mining permits have been issued in the offshore from the west of the North Island. This is the only area in the world where Maui's dolphins are existing.
The grant is in addition to the permits issued for oil exploration in the North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary.
Green Party oceans spokesperson Gareth Hughes said: "This is another yet example of National sacrificing the last remaining 55 Maui's dolphins in order to give the mining industry a leg-up, and showing a total disregard for the things New Zealanders care about.
"This is National's pollution economy writ large, when what we need is an economy that is greener, smarter and fairer."
The government has granted five mining permissions within the sanctuary that would explore a range of minerals including ironsand.
Opposing the government's move, Hughes said: "The dolphins' habitat would be degraded as a result of noise and pollution and there's a risk they'd be displaced into areas where they have no protection.
"The future survival of the Maui's dolphin is already bleak, there are only 55 left in the world. Mineral mining will push them closer to extinction.
"This is the world's most endangered dolphin we are talking about here. We should be doing everything we can to protect them. National is doing the exact opposite."
Meanwhile, New Zealand energy and resources minister Simon Bridges was quoted by Radio New Zealand as saying that the government had taken steps to tighten regulation around mineral exploration, and the permits were for prospecting, with more onerous requirements if the companies elected to progress to drilling.
"Using an evidence-based approach there has been no harm to Maui's Dolphins [from mineral exploration]," Bridges said.
Image: New Zealand's mining permits are feared to make Maui's dolphins extinct. Photo: © Department of Conservation, New Zealand.