Close-up view on NZ seabed mining hearings

Protesters against seabed mining plans off the Taranaki/Wanganui coast

Protesters against seabed mining plans off the Taranaki/Wanganui coast

Laird Harper | Fairfax Media

The fight over whether or not a ironsand mining development will be allowed in Taranaki waters has moved into the province this week.

The landmark mining hearing, run by the Environmental Protection Authority, has been under way since early March in Wellington, but this week submitters to the hearing will be heard in the affected region.

Those fighting to stop Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) have cited concerns relating to effects on marine and coastal ecology, erosion and consequential effects on local communities.

Those backing the proposal say it is a worthwhile investment that would contribute to the country’s economic growth.

Whenuakura Marae spokeswoman Anne-Marie Broughton said they would send a “very loud and clear message” to the EPA.

If given the green light the operation would cover an area of 65.76 square kilometres, near the Kupe oil rig.

TTR proposes to extract up to 50 million tonnes of sediment per year and process it aboard a floating processing storage and offloading vessel. About 5 million tonnes of iron ore concentrate will then be exported.

Broughton said they were horrified that “the pursuit of profit for overseas investors is being given priority over the health and wellbeing of our country’s marine environment”.

“This type of operation has never been done before in New Zealand or the world,” Broughton said.

“In fact, Namibia has placed a three year moratorium on seabed mining to allow sufficient time for robust environmental assessment.

“Their government states that seabed mining cannot happen if there is not solid proof that it will not have negative impacts on the environment.”

Broughton said TTR had no proven track record in seabed mining and intend using methodology that will create long sediment plumes north and south of the mining site.

“There is no known certainty regarding the short and long term impacts of the activity and, therefore, risk of irreversible damage is a real possibility,” she said.

The group is one of twelve Nga Rauru Kiitahi marae opposing the idea.

“The marae says plundering, mutilating and destroying the seabeds and putting the wellbeing of the sea and food chain at risk is a social, cultural, environmental and ethical crime,” Broughton said.

At the beginning of the hearings last month, TTR outlined why it wanted to extract millions of tonnes of iron sand.

TTR chief executive Tim Crossley said they had spent in excess of $8m on researching the effects the proposed mining may have.

“We would say there is no other past marine project, other than perhaps investigations into the Maui gas fields in the 70s and 80s, that has been researched as deeply,” Crossley said at the time.

“In reality our environmental footprint is confined pretty much to a 300m by 300m space [at any one time].”

The first Taranaki hearing starts at 9am at Pariroa Marae, near Patea, before heading to New Plymouth on Wednesday.

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Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, New Zealand

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