NZ groups opposed to seabed mining plan prepare to go back to court

Debbie Ngarewa-Packer has been leading the fight against seabed mining. SIMON O’CONNOR/STUFF

Catherine Groenestein | Stuff NZ | October 9 2018

Opponents of a plan to mine ironsand off the Taranaki coast are hoping the Court of Appeal will set a precedent to discourage other companies with similar aspirations.

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM), Greenpeace, Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui Trust, Te Kaahui o Rauru, Te Ohu Kaimoana (the Maori Fisheries Trust) and the Taranaki-Whanganui Conservation Board have all sought leave to cross-appeal on the High Court judgment that quashed Trans-Tasman Resources Ltd’s (TTRL) consent to mine the South Taranaki Bight seabed for ironsand.  

The court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to grant it a consent was unlawful. 

Two weeks ago, TTRL sought leave to take its case to the Court of Appeal.

“There were a number of points we raised that the High Court decision did not uphold, and the Trans-Tasman Resources’ appeal has given us the opportunity to challenge those decisions,” KASM chairperson Cindy Baxter said.

“This is obviously a precedent-setting case, it’s the first application for consent, and it’s important to have this precedent as strong as possible.”

She said there were other companies interested in seabed mining along the country’s West Coast.

In May, Offshore Ironsands Mining Ltd was granted permission for mining exploration inside a marine sanctuary set up to protect the endangered Māui’s dolphins off the coast of New Plymouth.

“Our cross-appeal is a logical step to take in this precedent-setting decision, as there are other seabed mining companies waiting in the wings. There are enough pressures on our oceans already without having to deal with the impacts of seabed mining,” Emily Hunter of Greenpeace said.

Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui Trust is cross appealing on points including its mana whenua interest and rights and the EPA’s failure to take the cautionary approach required by the Act.

“We want to make sure that anyone else that comes in has to reach this extremely high benchmark, they’re not able to just bowl in without doing the research they’re required to do,” Kaiarataki Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said.

The iwi was disappointed the Labour Government had not included the mining programme in its move towards stopping oil and gas prospecting.

“We’re putting a lot of effort into fighting this sunset industry with absolutely shocking environmental practices, when we should be focusing on developing a progressive economy and energy sector we can all be proud of.”

Te Kaahui o Rauru and Te Ohu Kaimoana (the Maori Fisheries Trust) have jointly lodged a cross appeal.

Kaiwhakahaere (CEO) Anne-Marie Broughton said the process had been exhausting and expensive, but Te Kaahui o Rauru likened the protection of the sea to the protection of the marae.

“The ocean is a fragile and largely unknown ecosystem and the problem is that if we damage it, we don’t know how to fix it up again. We must stand up for our environment. There are other ways to grow a healthy and sustainable economy – seabed mining is not the answer.”

The Taranaki-Whanganui Conservation Board has also resolved to defend the High Court’s decision, as well as to seek leave to cross-appeal in order to have the High Court’s decision confirmed on other grounds.

“It’s disappointing that we have to continue to fight to protect our environment,” chairperson Brendon Te Tiwha Puketapu said.

A spokesperson from the Court of Appeal said Forest and Bird and the Fisheries Interests had also filed cross appeals.

No date had yet been set for a hearing.

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Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, New Zealand

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