Bridges' non-appearance criticised

BENN BATHGATE
Last updated 10:58 25/06/2014
protest
MARK MCKEOWN/Musae Studios

VOICES HEARD: Protesters carried dolphin placards numbered one to 55, representing the number of Maui's dolphins left. Other signs called for Simon Bridges' resignation.

Tamati Coffey
Supplied.
TV TO MP? Tamati Coffey is vying for the Labour nomination to challenge Todd McClay in Rotorua.
Minister of Labour Simon Bridges
Fairfax NZ
SIMON BRIDGES: Wouldn't meet with protesters.

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It's a double-barrelled blast that may signal troubled waters ahead for Simon Bridges.

The National MP for Tauranga and Minister of Energy has been slammed by former TV personality and Labour Party Rotorua electoral candidate Tamati Coffey as "cowardly and arrogant" over his failure to appear at a protest organised by Coffey against oil exploration in the habitat of the endangered Maui's dolphin.

About 400 protesters turned up at Bridges' electoral office in Tauranga last Saturday.

"He thinks it's a silly issue and he wasn't going to front up on the day, yet hundreds of people still showed up . . . to show him they cared," he said.

Coffey said there were just 55 Maui's dolphins left in the world, all in New Zealand waters, and criticised the decision to allow oil exploration in their habitat.

"If their situation isn't remedied immediately, soon enough we are going to be part of the generation that allowed their extinction," he said.

Bridges said that the Government takes public concern about Maui dolphins seriously, but that the threat posed by oil and gas exploration is small.

''Ninety-five per cent of threats to Maui dolphins come from fishing-related activities, with nets identified as the biggest threat, which is why fishing restrictions have been introduced in the area.''

He also argued that in the Taranaki region, conservation and exploration have co-existed since the 1960s.

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