Sea mining decision is under fire
Plans for mining the seabed off Taranaki for iron sand, processing it, and spitting most of it back have been compared to filling the Westpac Stadium with sediment once a week and dumping it back into a sensitive environment.
The comparison was made in the High Court in Wellington yesterday where Greenpeace and Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) are trying to overturn the decision that allows TransTasman Resources Ltd to mine up to 50 million tonnes of iron sand in the South Taranaki Bight annually for 35 years.
Davey Salmon, the lawyer for Greenpeace and KASM said the application was unprecedented. He compared it to filling the Westpac Stadium with sediment and said the way sediment behaved depended on how it was handled and where it was released.
Justice Peter Churchman has already been told in the High Court in Wellington that the application was believed to be a world first.
Yesterday Salmon said the Environmental Protection Authority decision making committee had breached basic rules of natural justice in the hearing on TransTasman’s application.
The application for marine and discharge consents was approved in August 2017 on conditions that included a two-year informationgathering exercise.
Other consents were needed before mining could start, Salmon said.
Experts advising opponents of the plan should have been given a chance to see the information, test it and criticise it, but that infiormation would not be available for two more years, he said.
Earlier on Tuesday the judge was told the application was approved without proper information about whether critically endangered species like Maui’s dolphin were in the area.
The lawyer for the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, Martin Smith, said every indication was that the decision making committee did not properly consider the effect of seabed mining on marine mammals.
It did not have information about the presence or absence of marine mammals, some critically endangered or species of concern, he said.
The application from TransTasman Resources Ltd could have been declined, favouring caution and environmental protection, because of the lack of information, Smith said.
The committee accepted the data it was given had to be treated with caution.
The committee went on to make findings, without explaining how the information they said was to be treated with caution, was nevertheless sufficient, Smith said.
One expert had told the committee that a minimum of three years of study would be needed to know about the seasonal patterns of marine mammals.
The Environmental Protection Authority had appointed a fourperson decision-making committee to consider the TransTasman Resources application.
The committee was split on the outcome, giving the chairman the deciding vote to grant the company 35-year marine and discharge consents, with conditions.
The dredging is earmarked in an area 22 kilometres to 36km off the coastline from Patea. Eleven parties have appealed. Even before it is given an appeal against the High Court decision has already been foreshadowed. Lawyer for the Ma¯ ori and fishing interests, Francis Cooke, QC, said whatever the outcome it was likely the case would go further.
The hearing is due to end this week.