A mining exploration permit has been quietly granted inside a marine sanctuary off the Taranaki coast to protect the endangered Māui’s dolphins.
The decision, which was approved in May, has shocked conservation groups who were unaware of it.
But the Department of Conservation (DOC) had been aware of Ironsands Offshore Mining Ltd’s application since March. It has voiced “significant concerns” about the safety of the dolphins if the exploration proved successful and mining was to go ahead.
In March DOC warned Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage that it was uncertain whether the public was aware of the application and there would be a “high level of interest” if people were told of the development.
The exploration permit was later granted without seeking resource consent from the Taranaki Regional Council because its coastal plan rules exploration is a permitted activity.