Pattrick Smellie | National Business Review
Would-be ironsands miner TransTasman Resources has been instructed by the High Court to come up with a far shorter, more focused appeal against the rejection of its application to mine the seabed in the Exclusive Economic Zone.
At a chambers hearing on Tuesday, which media were allowed to attend, Justice Denis Clifford gave TTR’s counsel, Hugh Rennie QC, until Friday, Oct. 17 to file an amended statement of claim against the finding to turn down the project in June by a Decision-Making Committee appointed by the Environmental Protection Authority, while setting aside five days for hearings from March 9 next year.
The application was the first for seabed mining under new legislation governing economic activity in New Zealand’s vast offshore EEZ and came as a shock to the minerals sector, which was watching the TTR application intensely after the company spent seven years and some $60 million on technical feasibility, environmental impact and other studies.
The procedural hearing for TTR came just two days ahead of today’s start to hearings by another DMC into a marine consent application by Chatham Rock Phosphate to mine phosphate nodules on the Chatham Rise, more than 400 kilometres to the east of Christchurch.
The CRP bid is opposed by many of the same fishing industry and environmental groups as opposed the TTR application.
On the TTR statement of claim, Justice Clifford urged Rennie to “give us your five best” grounds for appeal and to “try to sift it”, or the hearing risked running beyond the one day set down for TTR to set out its arguments.
“Can’t it be made bit more succinct and its structure a little clearer?” the judge said.
Based on Rennie’s comments to the court, it appears one of the fundamental issues raised will be whether the EEZ legislation allows or requires a DMC to be “investigative” or to make its decisions “on the papers before it”.
TTR has spoken in the past about expecting a negotiated process at the hearings, where concerns about environmental impacts and options for their mitigation could be teased through – a process the company says did not occur.
Rennie said the most recent filings on the appeal made clear the company was not seeking an entirely new hearing, but to have the decision sent back to the EPA.
Justice Clifford told Rennie he needed to identify “legal theories” relating to the EPA’s investigative obligations.
“They need to be found in the Act and particularised,” he said.