Jeremy Wilkinson | Stuff NZ | January 25 2017
Hearings which will decide whether a company can mine the seabed off the coast of Taranaki will only be held in two locations – to the outrage of opposition groups.
Trans Tasman Resources has applied for the second time in as many years to mine ore from sand 36 kilometres off the coast of Patea. A previous, similar application was denied in 2014.
The Environmental Protection Authority will host hearings in New Plymouth and Wellington in mid-February, but Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (Kasm) is arguing that opposition to the mining is far more widespread and hearing locations should be tailored to reflect that.
“When the authority held their hearings last time around there were hearings in Hamilton and Whanganui so people all over the country could at least make one,” Kasm’s secretary Cindy Baxter said.
Baxter said of the more than 4000 people that submitted through Kasm, 118 were in Raglan, 65 in Auckland, 38 in Whanganui and 26 in New Plymouth.
“Where they’re holding hearings doesn’t reflect where the majority of submissions are coming from,” she said.
“They’ve said people can Skype in to the hearings, but that’s not really the same thing.”
As for why people from all over the country have submitted against TTR and want to be heard at the hearings, Baxter said it was the precedent the proposed mining activity would set.
“It’s the black sand that links us,” she said.
“People are very protective of it. That’s how I got involved with Kasm, because I live at a black sand beach in Piha and I was worried once they were done with Taranaki they would move north.”
Kasm estimated that more than 17,000 people had submitted against TTR’s latest application, a number later confirmed by the Environmental Protection Authority as 13,733 total submissions – with those for and against yet to be confirmed.
This was the highest number of submissions the EPA has ever received on any application since it was established in 2011. The second highest being 4850 submissions on TTR’s similar application in 2014.
It’s not just Kasm that is unhappy with the decision. Nga Rauru Kitahi – one of the iwi which TTR’s proposed mining activities will affect – has said the decision to not hold hearings within the territory of tangata whenua was “appalling”.
“It’s a serious insult to not hold hearings on one of Ngati Ruanui or Nga Rauru Kitahi marae or at an absolute minimum, within one of our rohe (territory),” Nga Rauru Kitahi’s general manager Anne-Marie Broughton said.
She compared the the decision to “behaviour deployed on Maori in the 1800s when the Native Land Court convened sittings regarding Maori land in distant locations creating barriers of time and cost to owners”.
“Consequently, many Maori owners were unable to attend court hearings, resulting in the loss of their lands.”
Broughton said it was appalling that this behaviour was continuing in 2017.
The hearing will begin in the Member’s Lounge in Westpac Stadium, Wellington, at 9am on February 16.
Dates and times for the New Plymouth hearings have yet to be confirmed.