Jamie Morton | NZ Herald
Many of the nearly 4700 objecting to Taranaki offshore iron-sand exploitation also want to speak at hearings.
A controversial bid to mine an area of seabed off the North Island’s west coast has met a backlash, with only a handful of several thousand submissions in support of the plan.
Of just over 4700 submissions received by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), which is considering Trans-Tasman Resources’ application, 99.5 per cent were either fully or partly against the plan.
TTR is seeking a consent to mine 65sq km of exclusive economic zone seabed in the South Taranaki Bight for iron-rich sand particles, using large remote-controlled machines that would travel along the seafloor pumping sand to a processing ship.
The EPA said a wide range of concerns were raised in the submissions, with the majority of issues relating to effects on marine and coastal ecology, erosion and waves, and consequential effects on local communities, recreation, businesses, Maori interests and economy.
Nearly half of the submitters want to speak at next months’ hearings.
Submitters cited concerns about the potential impact on recreational activities such as fishing, diving and surfing, reef habitats, sediment deposition and plumes, the disturbance of the seabed and the ability of benthic communities to recover.
They questioned whether the economic benefits of the project, touted to generate $147 million in exports, would outweigh ecological and economic losses – and worried local communities would not benefit.
Kiwis Against Seabed Mining chairman Phil McCabe said the feedback showed “overwhelming public consensus” opposing the plans.
“The geographical spread and sheer volume of submissions show that this application is certainly one of national significance and of high concern to the people of New Zealand,” he said.
Haimona Maruera, chairman of Hawera-based Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui, said despite studying the proposal in great detail, his iwi were left with too many concerns.
TTR chief executive Tim Crossley said the company was reading and considering all of the submissions.
“Although we are still analysing submissions, we note that submitters want to see a project that will bring benefits to the Taranaki community, and that their ability to enjoy the South Taranaki natural features will not be diminished.”