Sea min­ing de­ci­sion is un­der fire

Taranaki Daily News - - News - STAFF RE­PORTER

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.

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