Merania Karauria | Waanganui Chronicle
An anti-seabed-mining group says the New Zealand Government shouldn’t be backing a “largely foreign-owned business” with taxpayer money.
Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) are outraged at the Government’s decision to give seabed mining company Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) $15 million for three years, and it can apply for a further two years’ extension.
KASM chairperson Phil McCabe told the Chronicle that TTR does not have a marine consent to mine the seabed off the Patea coast and the grant from Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce was pre-emptive.
“This act of gifting $25 million shows the hand of Government and where it stands.
“This is public money and the seabed is a public asset.”
Mr Joyce said the up to $5 million a year was under a “high tech” Research & Development Growth Grants scheme to encourage business innovation and growth for New Zealand companies.
But TTR is not listed on the NZX exchange and only has two New Zealand directors; its CEO Tim Crossley and former National Party leader Jenny Shipley.
“Why is the Government using taxpayer money?” Mr McCabe asked.
“TTR’s proposal guarantees large-scale marine habitat destruction in an ecologically sensitive area and would deliver low returns for our economy. There is no reason for the Government to back this business.”
Mr McCabe also questioned the Government’s definition of “high tech”.
“The Government has a twisted sense of what is ‘high tech’ if it includes an operation that is simply digging up raw material from the seabed and selling it overseas.”
Mr McCabe said KASM was speaking up on behalf of the public and had committed time and energy to raise awareness of what was at stake if TTR was granted consent.
Environmental Protection Authority chief executive Rob Forlong said the grant should not compromise the independence of the body tasked with deciding whether the company can mine the South Taranaki seabed.
In March, a five-member committee of the EPA will begin considering whether TTR can mine ironsand from 66sq/km of seabed 22km offshore from Patea.
Asked whether the Government’s pro-development policies and grant would influence the committee in favour of approving the mining, Mr Forlong said these were not relevant to the authority.
When announcing the first businesses to receive the Growth Grants, Mr Joyce said each of them “are strong proven R&D performers”.
“These companies have the potential to grow further and faster through the innovation this support will foster.”
He told 3News KASM “has no right to claim a company doesn’t qualify”.