Jeremy Wilkinson | Stuff | 2 September 2016
Iwi have labelled a seabed mining company “arrogant” and slammed their consultation process in applying to mine offshore in South Taranaki.
For the second time in as many years Trans Tasman Resources have applied for consent to annually mine 50 million tonnes of sand from the seabed off the South Taranaki coast.
The Environmental Protection Authority denied the company’s application in 2014 deeming the effects of uplifting so much sand would have an unknown effect on the environment. TTR applied again to mine the seabed on August 23 this year.
Now kaiarataki of Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui Debbie Ngarewa-Packer has said she, and her iwi, were extremely disappointed with the way TTR had gone about consulting with them in their re-application.
“From our perspective there has been extremely poor consultation from their end,” she said.
“There’s a high degree of arrogance from that company in that want us to clear their application on our end, but won’t show us their science.”
Ngarewa-Packer said Taranaki iwi dealt extensively with oil and gas companies and had never before been kept so in the dark.
“We’ve never had a problem like this before, companies we usually deal with are falling over themselves to give us as much information as possible,” she said.
“This is the exact opposite, they’re saying it won’t have any effect on the seabed but refuse to prove it to us.”
The 66 square kilometre area TTR want to mine was last week described as a “vast expanse of sand” by the company, however a recent report tabled at the Taranaki Regional Council on Thursday indicated a variety of life on the sea floor.
The report, conducted by the Cawthron Institute, found there were no threatened species within the 12 mile Coastal Marine Area (CMA) but further offshore within the Exclusive Economic Zone where TTR have applied to mine, there are at least five threatened species of invertebrate.
While the Taranaki Regional Council has no jurisdiction in the EEZ they do have a say on activities which can affect the CMA.
Councillor Craig Williamson said when the TTR appeared before the council several years ago their presentation was that it was pretty much just mud and sand.
“Now I’m looking at this report which says there’s a huge cluster of life that needed to be protected right in the very zone they are planning on sand mining,” he said.
“In my opinion any adverse effect is too much of an effect, and I’m hoping that’s the position the EPA will take.”
However, a spokesperson for TTR said the Cawthron report focused on marine life within the council’s jurisdiction and referenced data commissioned by the TTR.
They also said the company had done extensive work to limit the spread of the sand plume.
“This has included controlled deposition of the de-ored sediment 4 metres above the seabed into areas from which the sediment was extracted,” they said.
Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) chairperson Phil McCabe said the Cawthron report was damning for TTR’s latest application.
“The miners say this area is a ‘virtual desert’, yet here we have scientists telling us quite the opposite,” he said.
“Many people are simply unaware of how much life exists on the sea floor, and how important that life is to maintain a healthy marine envrionment.”
The Environmental Protection Agency has until Tuesday September 6 to decide whether TTR’s application is complete.
From there the public will be notified and have 20 days to make submissions.