Fish stocks and high emotion at seabed mining hearing

Nga Rauru submitters (left) Bill Hamilton, Turama Hawira, Anne-Marie Broughton, Archie Hurunui and Te Pahunga Marty Davis say seabed mining encroaches on their rights and interests. PHOTO/ SUPPLIED

Laurel Stowell | Wanganui Chronicle | March 9, 2017

From vulnerable blue cod to crying mokopuna – there were a variety of submissions to seabed mining hearings in New Plymouth on Tuesday.

It was the second day of hearings into Trans-Tasman Resources’ (TTR’S) proposal to mine iron-sand from 66 square kilometres of seabed off the Patea coast. There were about 50 people listening to the submitters.

Tanea Tangaroa, from Whanganui, began her unscripted evidence with a pause and a dramatic question for the four-member decision making committee: “Ko wai koe? (Who are you?)”

It was the question her grandchildren were asking her.

“Who are the people that are coming in and wanting to do this to our taonga (treasures).”

In her matauranga (knowledge) all people are one, she said.

“I have to tell them that the people who are doing this are extensions of ourselves. Our children cry to hear this, as I cry for them.”

Raukura Waitai, who lives at Kai Iwi, said her people were coastal and they had been promised their fisheries would be protected.

“The ocean is our church, our food source, our recreation ground. It’s where we go for healing.”

Mining would injure its mauri (life force), she said.

“If the life force of the moana is compromised, so too will be our life force.”

Witnesses Alessandra Keighley, from Parihaka, and Rochelle Bullock, from Whanganui, sang after they spoke. Some got applause – frowned on by committee chairman Alick Shaw.

“We are not going to have applause here. You will be asked to leave if it continues,” he said.

Fisherman Roger Malthus said he worried for the blue cod fishery, because blue cod were territorial and stayed in the same place on the seabed. Mining 24/7 for 35 years, with the sediment plume it creates, would affect them.

“The question of impact on recreational fishers is a really important consideration for us,” Mr Shaw said.

The South Taranaki Underwater Club’s Bruce Boyd said the sediment plume could decrease primary production in the sea by 40 per cent. The plume would pass over many reefs, including the reef the club focuses on in the South Taranaki Reef Life Project.

It could reduce visibility there by as much as 50 per cent. That concerned him, as a diver, because it was already hard to find weather calm enough to dive there.

Members of the Nga Motu Marine Reserve Society talked of impacts on orca and seabirds. They said there was not enough information about South Taranaki’s marine environment, and TTR hadn’t used the best information available in its application.

Malibu Hamilton, from surfing organisation Te Ngaru Roa a Maui, suggested the Environmental Protection Authority get a financial bond from TTR, to be used to repair any damage caused by mining.

Representing the Raglan Sport Fishing Club, Sheryl Hart said the west coast fishery has been rebuilding since quota management began and nothing should jeopardise that.

“Young fish need soft corals and low reef and seaweed to grow into adults. Soft corals are very, very susceptible to sedimentation. The value of the fishery is far outweighed by anything you make out of seabed mining.”

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