Jeremy Wilkinson | Stuff | September 28 2016
Taranaki iwi leaders are claiming a seabed mining company is being deliberately misleading in its application to extract tonnes of iron ore from the region’s seabed.
All eight Taranaki iwi said they’d support Ngati Ruanui in its submission against mining company Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) at an iwi chairs forum several weeks ago.
The company has for the second time applied to mine 50 million tonnes of sand from 66 square kilometres of South Taranaki’s seabed after its previous application was rejected by the Environmental Protection Authority in 2014, partly because of the company’s lack of consultation with iwi.
Now two of the main iwi affected by the repeat application have said consultation has not only been sub-par but they have accused the company of misleading the public, and the government, about the process.
Nga Ruahine and Ngati Ruanui said TTR had used an organisation called the Iwi Fisheries Forum as an umbrella organisation to represent the views of Taranaki iwi affected by its application.
Te Korowai o Ngaruahine Trust’s general manager Cassandra Crowley says the Iwi Fisheries Forum does not have mandate to speak on their behalf.
The Iwi Fisheries Forum, or Te Taihauauru, was initially set up to support iwi customary fisheries management but does not contain members from Taranaki iwi.
However, a spokesperson for TTR said it had reached out to all affected iwi and its attempts to engage had been either rebuffed or ignored.
“Our engagement with iwi through the Iwi Fisheries Forum was an additional mechanism to engage with iwi; at no time has it substituted any one-on-one discussions with any stakeholders,” they said.
“We are disappointed there has been considerable misinformation about our consultation process with some iwi.”
Ngati Ruanui holds mana whenua for the South Taranaki Bight, meaning the area is of huge cultural significance to its members. It is the primary iwi that TTR would need to consult with in regard to its mining activities.
However, kaiarataki of Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said TTR had made their application look as though it had consulted with iwi through its references to the fisheries forum.
“The thing is, that body is not legally mandated to represent iwi,” she said.
“We think they’re deliberately misleading the government that they have iwi mandate.
“By saying they have the support from the forum they’re misleading readers of the application into thinking they’ve done a proper cultural assessment.”
Ngarewa-Packer said Ngati Ruanui shut down negotiations with the company after they wouldn’t release certain information about their application without the iwi having first signed a confidentiality agreement.
The Environmental Protection Authority accepted TTR’s submission of confidential sections of their application, and on Wednesday announced they would remain confidential despite Kasm calling for them to be made public.
General manager for Nga Ruahine, an iwi whose territory borders Ngati Ruanui, Cassandra Crowley, said TTR had also asked them to sign the confidentiality agreement.
“We were prepared to sign it right up until we actually saw it as we were led to believe it was a standard non-disclosure agreement protecting commercially sensitive information, but this went beyond that,” she said.
“We were being asked to sign something which essentially waived our moral rights, we couldn’t agree to that – nor should tangata whenua or any person or organisation submitting on a consent ever be asked to do that.”
Crowley said TTR’s engagement had “left much to be desired”, especially with TTR engaging with the Iwi Fisheries Forum in what she believed was a substitute to dealing with Nga Ruahine.
“It is not a forum which is mandated by us to speak on our behalf in this way,” she said.