Talk but not answers from Smith

Conservation Minister Nick Smith talks a good game but some Raglan residents have been left unconvinced by his handling of contentious questions about seabed mining and the protection of the Maui's dolphin.

Smith was in Raglan yesterday speaking at an event organised by the town's Chamber of Commerce.

He covered a range of topics including conservation efforts, Smith's own eco-capitalist "blue-green" vision and the housing issues facing New Zealand before inviting questions.

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining chairperson Phil McCabe said while Smith was articulate and charming, his avoidance of important questions was apparent.

"He's clearly very smart and an excellent communicator, but he spoke for four minutes at a time and still didn't answer my questions," he said.

McCabe grilled the minister about the Government's failure to ban seismic exploration, a process he says is proved to be harmful, and asked why calls for a moratorium had been ignored.

"[The Government] are saying the method used for seismic surveying is just an 'air bubble', but I've stood on the shore two kilometres away from a ship and felt the thumps," he said.

Smith replied that New Zealand had an exclusive economic zone 20 times its landmass and said the first foreign application to the Environmental Protection Authority had been denied. He reiterated he was firmly against blanket-banning.

Smith also said the Maui gas field would run out "relatively" soon, and unless more gas was discovered the only alternative could be coal, drawing a cry from the crowd.

Secretary of the Raglan Sport Fishing Club Sheryl Hart questioned the minister's commitment to protect the Maui's dolphin, saying there was inadequate monitoring of trawlers.

Smith said there had never been a trawling-related Maui's dolphin death.

"That you know of," said Hart.

Don Rowe is a Wintec journalism student.

Waikato Times