Simon Hartley | Otago Daily Times | 8 November 2016
The first of what is likely to be many challenges by environmentalists against a seabed mining proposal started in the Environment Court yesterday, with Kiwis Against Seabed Mining taking Trans Tasman Resources to task over redacted documents.
Trans Tasman recently made its second application to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to mine the South Taranaki Bight seabed for iron sands. Its first application last year was declined by the EPA, after Trans Tasman spent $66million on research and development.
However, the basis for the court challenge by KASM was prompted after Trans Tasman was successful in lobbying the EPA to redact large swathes of its second application from public scrutiny.
While KASM has been mobilising thousands of individuals to make submissions on the application, its chairman Phil McCabe said yesterday Taranaki iwi Ngati Ruanui and Talley’s Fisheries had both made submissions supporting KASM’s case in the Environment Court.
Mr McCabe said the “hundreds of pages of redactions” included details of the content of the Bight’s seabed sediment, the modelling, and detail, of the sediment plume which would be spread across the Bight from seabed mining, as well as economic data.
“We were forced to take our case to the Environment Court because the redacted documents provide crucial information about the potential environmental impact of digging up 50 million tonnes of the seabed a year for 35 years,” Mr McCabe said in a statement.
Both Trans Tasman and separate seabed mining proposer Chatham Rock Phosphate had their respective first applications turned down by the EPA, meaning every step of the legal process becomes precedent-setting.
Mr McCabe noted no information was redacted in either Trans Tasman or Chatham’s first, unsuccessful, applications and saw no reason for that to have changed.
He said the redacted documents could only be viewed if a party signed a confidentiality agreement, which severely restricted distribution and discussion of the content and put signatories at risk of civil and criminal penalties if they breached that agreement.
The hearing is expected to last for two days.
In mid-October, the EPA extended the public submission period by a month to November 14, following requests for more information. The extension meant the formal application would now begin no later than January 31.