Strong opposition to NZ seabed mining proposal at EPA hearings

seabed-mining-protest

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining | Scoop NZ | February 15, 2017

When seabed mining hearings open in Wellington today, the strength of opposition will be apparent to the Environmental Protection Authority, said Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) today.

The EPA is hearing a renewed application by mining company Trans-Tasman Resources to dig up 50 million tonnes of the seabed a year in a 66 sq. km section of the South Taranaki Bight – for 35 years. The EPA refused the company a consent in 2014. They have now re-applied.

“It is clear from the hearing schedule and the more than 13,500 individual submissions that there is little support for this proposal,” said Phil McCabe, KASM Chairperson.

“While the EPA has not released its analysis of the submissions as it did last time yet, it is clear that the vast majority of those who spoke out are against this destructive practice.”

There are three times as many submitters as for the first application.

Members of the public opposed to the application will gather outside the venue at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington, when the hearings open.

Inside, the first day will see opening statements in opposition from KASM, whose lawyers will also represent Greenpeace, from almost the whole of the country’s fishing industry, including fishing giants Talley’s and the Maori Fisheries company Te Ohu Kaimoana, and from the Royal Forest & Bird Society and Origin Energy.

The strength of Maori opposition will be evident at the hearings in New Plymouth, the only venue outside Wellington, on 6 March.

“All the local Iwi are opposing this proposal. KASM has supported calls by the Iwi for hearings in the communities that would be most affected by the seabed mining.”

The process has been marked by extensive procedural wrangling. KASM late last year applied to the Environment Court to force release of crucial environmental information that had been withheld by the EPA. The Environment Court agreed, ordering release of the material.

“KASM will continue to fight for public participation,” said McCabe. “Most recently we objected strongly to the decision of the committee not to allow cross examination. If anything, in light of the fact that the EPA has turned down two applications, there should be more scrutiny than ever on this proposal.”

McCabe also slammed the Department of Conservation for refusing to make a submission, when, in the first application by Trans Tasman Resources in 2013, DOC made extensive submissions, particularly on the conditions for any consent, which was ultimately refused

“DOC has ditched its responsibility to protect the world’s most endangered dolphin, the Maui dolphin, despite the mine site being in its southern habitat. DOC’s lack of engagement in this process is shocking,” he said.

KASM experts will be giving evidence next week. These include:

• Blue whale expert Dr Leigh Torres (Tuesday February 21), who has been studying the presence and behaviour of blue whales in the South Taranaki Bight. Dr Torres is out in the Bight right now, on another research expedition where she is looking for confirmation of her theory that the Bight is not only a feeding ground for the blue whales, but could also be a breeding ground for a New Zealand-specific population. See her evidence here.

• Dr John Cockrem of Massey University (Wednesday February 22), one of the country’s leading experts in the little penguin – Korora, or Blue Penguin – whose populations are in decline. The plume from the seabed mining could affect the food and feeding grounds of these birds, and others. See his evidence here.

• Economist Jim Binney (Thursday 23 February) has challenged the methodology Trans-Tasman Resources has used to extrapolate its economic benefits and job creation from the proposal. He argues they should have used the Treasury’s recommended cost benefit analysis methodology and that they should have valued environmental and social costs. See his evidence here.

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