Anti-mining activists taking NZ government agency to court over confidential documents

Redacted pages from TTR's mining application

Redacted pages from TTR’s mining application

Jeremy Wilkinson | Stuff

Activists are taking a government agency to court over its refusal to release blacked out documents related to plans for a huge mining scheme off the South Taranaki coast.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has stood by its decision to allow parts of an application by Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) to remain confidential. 

The company wants to mine 50 million tonnes of sand from a 66 square kilometre area in order to extract iron ore.

Ngati Ruanui of Patea are the iwi most affected by the proposed mining and are staunchly opposed to it. MONIQUE FORD / Fairfax NZ

Ngati Ruanui of Patea are the iwi most affected by the proposed mining and are staunchly opposed to it. MONIQUE FORD / Fairfax NZ

But it has kept hundreds of pages blacked-out in its consent application to the EPA.

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) chair Phil McCabe said the group would filing proceedings with the Environment Court against the EPA on Friday. 

A public submission period is currently underway for people wanting to have their say on TTR’s application, its second since the EPA rejected an earlier effort in 2014.

At that time the EPA said the environmental impact of mining was still unknown. 

KASM has made a submission to the EPA to reveal the documents, but the authority ruled on Wednesday they would be kept under-wraps to preserve the commercial sensitivity of the information. 

Kasm delivered a 6000+ signed the petition calling for a moratorium on seabed mining to parliament in September.

“It’s not a good decision, this is meant to be a public and transparent process,” McCabe said.

“It’s not possible for the public to make an informed submission if there are hundreds of pages of vital information missing.”

TTR has maintained that the information contained within the redacted sections was commercially sensitive and the EPA’s decision making committee (DMC) chair Alick Shaw agreed.

“The DMC remains satisfied that an order protecting the sensitive information is necessary to avoid disclosing a trade secret or avoid causing unreasonable prejudice to TTR’s commercial position,” he said. 

People wanting to view the confidential sections can sign an agreement with TTR, but McCabe said it was unrealistic to expect thousands of people to sign.

“It’s hardly confidential anymore anyway if that were to happen,” he said. 

At present several organisations, such as the Iwi Fisheries Forum, DOC, Fish and Game NZ and the Taranaki Regional Council have all signed the agreement, but affected iwi have stonewalled any consultation with the company, including signing the agreement. 

A TTR spokesperson said the company could not comment on the EPA’s process and had nothing to add.

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Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, New Zealand

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