Category Archives: New Zealand

NZ support for seabed mining on offer in Pacific

Seabed mining in the Pacific has become a controversial topic – but New Zealand is willing to support nations who want to mine if they ask for support. File photo: Getty Images

Despite uncertainty over the environmental impact, some Pacific countries are pushing ahead with plans to mine their seabeds for minerals – and New Zealand has offered a helping hand.

Sam Sachdeva | Newsroom | 8 October 2019

The New Zealand Government will help Pacific countries carry out seabed mining within their marine territories if asked, despite calls for a 10-year moratorium on the controversial practice.

The Government has refused to reveal which countries it has already assisted, with one environmental group urging New Zealand to reverse its policy and protect the marine environment in the Pacific.

Advocates of the extraction activity have argued it can provide a sustainable and replenishing supply of minerals, while critics have expressed fears about the impact of mining on aquatic habitats and the destruction of the ocean floor.

In New Zealand, a company planning to dredge the ocean floor for minerals off the coast of New Plymouth has headed to the Court of Appeal to win back a mining consent.

But the topic is of concern in the wider Pacific region, with some countries calling for a moratorium on the practice until the environmental impacts are better understood.

In a May briefing to Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters, officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade set out New Zealand’s approach to any requests for support from Pacific nations planning to mine the seabed in their exclusive economic zones (EEZs).

The countries’ sovereign rights to utilise the natural resources within their EEZs had to be balanced with protecting the environment and biodiversity, as well as the needs of future generations.

With early indications that the technology and investment from seabed mining in the Pacific would come from “external actors” – a potential reference to China,which has developed a growing interest in seabed mining– officials said countries would need robust legal frameworks, governance structures and environmental protections in place before entering into any agreements.

It was also important than any deals protected the country’s sovereignty and provided a fair financial return.

New Zealand agencies like the Department of Conservation and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment could help Pacific countries with establishing regulatory, environmental and governance processes for seabed mining.

Support in those areas “would not be inconsistent with the New Zealand Government’s domestic policies for the sustainable management of non-living natural resources,” the briefing said.

“New Zealand will not actively encourage seabed mining in the EEZ of Pacific Island partners, but when approached for assistance New Zealand Government and agencies can support [them] to ensure that environmental protection and good governance frameworks are in place to reduce risk to the marine environment and national interests.”

Among the key principles for New Zealand when considering any requests for support were promoting the sustainable management of natural resources, protecting the environment from pollution, and supporting countries to meet their obligations under international law.

Any support from New Zealand should also align with the Pacific Island Forum’s regional ocean objectives, the briefing said.

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama is among the Pacific leaders calling for a moratorium on seabed mining in the region

However, Pacific leaders have been at odds over the issue, with some regional heavyweights supporting calls for a temporary ban.

Speaking at the Pacific Islands Forum in August, Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama called on leaders to support a 10-year moratorium from 2020 to 2030, which he said “would allow for a decade of proper scientific research of our economic zone and territorial waters”.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape has also indicated he would support a moratorium, with his country attempting to recover more than NZ$174 million which it sunk into a failed deep sea mining project.

However, the Cook Islands has announced it will “take the lead” on seabed mining and start activity within five years, with Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown citing a potential reduction in development aid as a driver for the move.

Greenpeace NZ oceans campaigner Jessica Desmond told Newsroom that New Zealand’s position was concerning, with seabed mining carried out using an experimental technique which had never been tested in New Zealand.

“Around the world they’re kind of looking for the precedent setting of where it’s going to be allowed and how it’s going to happen…we don’t know what the environmental impact of this practice is, other than it will be pretty damaging.”

Desmond said New Zealand needed to support the calls for a moratorium from countries like Fiji, given the Pacific’s dependence upon their ocean ecosystems.

“We haven’t consented it in New Zealand, and…saying ‘we’re not going to do it here but we’re going to facilitate you guys to do it’ seems quite off to me.”

It was “short-sighted” for Pacific nations to turn to seabed mining for wealth generation, given the long-term damage such activities would cause, she said.

“If you’re looking at a small Pacific Island nation who depends so much on the ocean, even at a community level…sucking up the seabed and dumping everything back down is going to be much more destructive in the long-term in terms of what their marine resources can supply for them.”

Asked for comment on the Government’s stance and why it was not backing a moratorium, Peters’ office referred Newsroom to MFAT for comment.

In a written statement, an MFAT spokeswoman said the Government was “not in a position to release information about countries who might have requested assistance”, but reiterated the need to balance Pacific sovereignty with environmental protections.

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Filed under Environmental impact, Mine construction, New Zealand, Pacific region

Trans Tasman Resources’ fight to mine South Taranaki Bight back in NZ court

Whanganui doctor Athol Steward was joined by supporters in the last stretch of his walk from Raglan to Whanganui in 2017 to protest seabed mining. Photo / File

New Zealand Herald | 25 September, 2019

A mining company’s fight to dig for ironsands off the coast of Taranaki began again on Tuesday in court.

Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) was granted consent in 2017 to dig up to 50 million tonnes of sand off the South Taranaki Bight seabed each year, extract the iron ore from it, and dump the residue on the sea floor.

That consent was overturned by the High Court last year, after it was fiercely opposed by environmental groups including Kiwis Against Seabed Mining, Greenpeace, and Forest and Bird.

The crux of the argument in the Court of Appeal on Tuesday centred on whether a raft of conditions that were issued with the marine discharge consent, amounted to an “adaptive management approach”.

Adaptive management is a provision that allows for an activity to still go ahead, even if the information about its effects is unknown, or incomplete.

It can also be described as learning by doing, and adjusting the way something is done once more information becomes available.

Under the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act (EEZ) an adaptive management approach cannot be considered for a marine discharge consent.

The High Court found the conditions imposed alongside the consent, did amount to adaptive management, which is what TTR’s lawyers argued against on Tuesday.

Justin Smith QC told the court the conditions were no different to conditions imposed on other consents, in that if they were breached “you’re out”.

He said if it was adaptive management, the Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) Decision Making Committee (DMC), which approved the application, would have known.

“The DMC was more than conscious of what adaptive management is and the [EEZ’s] prescription of its use for the purposes of discharge consents.”

“This matter was considered and considered quite carefully.”

But the respondents disagreed.

Lawyer Richard Fowler said the combination of the 109 conditions did amount to adaptive management because it required TTR to make changes once more information was gathered.

He also said some of the conditions did not have “hard limits” meaning there was no clear way to know if they had been breached or not, so was different to a regular consent.

Lawyer for Forest and Bird Martin Smith told the court the DMC was provided with information that contained significant uncertainties about the state of the current environment and the effects of the proposed activity.

“The conditions allowing adaptation were imposed in response to [a lack of information] so that info could be gathered and the activity adapted accordingly. That is the kernel of adaptive management.”

The appeal this week is the latest in a long string of litigation for the parties.

TTR initially applied for consent to mine in 2013, the Environmental Protection Authority refused the consent in 2014, but granted it when TTR re-applied in 2017.

Last year a number of environmental groups, including Kiwis Against Seabed Mining, Greenpeace and Forest and Bird fought the consent in the High Court and won.

In September last year the company sought leave for this week’s appeal, which will continue to be heard on Wednesday and Thursday.

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NZ Māori disappointed ancestral land up for tender for oil and gas drilling in Taranaki

Land covering 2200 square kilometres around Mt Taranaki has been put up for tender for oil and gas drilling. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Leigh-Marama McLachlan | Radio New Zealand | 5 May 2019 

Iwi in Taranaki are upset the government has put their ancestral land up for oil and gas drilling.

The latest block offer, announced this week, covers 2200 square kilometres of land around Mt Taranaki.

Ngāti Ruanui chief executive Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said it stirred a feeling of anxiety they know too well.

“The whole community is caught up on what happens if they come. What happens if they are irresponsible around our wāhi tapu?

“What happens if they ruin our whenua and then go off when they have found nothing and dug holes everywhere?

“A community with uncertainty can’t reach its full potential.”

This is the first block offer for this government and comes after last year’s announcement it would ban new oil and gas exploration out at sea – but not onshore.

This week’s offer excluded conservation land and cultural sites like Maunga Taranaki and Parihaka.

But Ngāruahine iwi leader Daisy Noble said it was still unacceptable.

“It should have been a stake in the ground: There is not going to be any more offers,” she said.

“They went for a bob each way and we are sick and tired of these sorts of attitudes.”

In the South Taranaki town of Patea, 53 percent of the adults earn less than $20,000 a year.

Ngāruahine recently settled its treaty claims for $67.5 million dollars but Ms Noble said oil exploration was holding them back.

“The opportunities that exist for us at home, near my hapū, is about our whenua. By the time it comes back to us, all the goodness of it is gone. It’s already taken out.

“How do we develop our whenua when you have already taken the best part away?”

Former Green Party candidate for Te Tai Hauāuru, Jack McDonald, is gutted with the offer, which covers his own tribal lands.

“It is a slap in the face that this so-called progressive government, which is meant to be taking a new approach to climate change and a new approach to Māori-Crown relations, would actually continue with this approach.”

The government aims to reduce New Zealand’s emissions to net zero by 2050.

Te Tai Hauāuru MP Adrian Rurawhe said he understood their concerns.

“I sympathise with them but until we can transition to a low emissions economy, we are basically going to have to live with the situation we are in.”

The tender closes 28 August. In a new move, companies must engage with iwi if they want to explore within 200 metres of a sacred site or waterway.

But Ms Ngarewa-Packer said under the Resource Management Act and in agreements they formed with the companies, their area of influence extended to 500m.

“But for us, some companies could sit there and say, ‘Oh we are going to default to the Crown process, versus yours.’ So to a large degree, it falls shy off the expectations we have on the company.”

She said without the power to veto, iwi ended up in costly legal fights.

Last year, Ngāti Ruanui won a lengthy battle to stop seabed mining off the coast of Patea. It is one of many legal challenges the iwi has pursued.

Ms Ngarewa-Packer said it took a toll and all of that pressure came back each time a block offer was announced.

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Filed under Environmental impact, Exploration, Human rights, New Zealand

Wafi-Golpu land dispute: The other side of the story

Lorenitz Gaius | The National aka The Loggers Times | March 18, 2019

IT appears that some people, like one PK Anding, had lately, been vocal and supportive of the Piu Incorporated Land Group’s claim of ownership of the Wafi-Golpu project land. PK Anding had even gone as far as to mention that the Lutheran Church had written to the prime minister informing him of its support of Piu’s claim of ownership.

Further to my previous letter to the editor, I briefly mentioned that the claim by the Piu Incorporated Land Group, led by chairman Martin Tapei, was thrown out by the Supreme Court. A brief synopsis of the case is provided below for anyone out there to appreciate the origin of the Piu Incorporated Land Group claims of ownership over the 50,000 hectares of customary land.

On Feb 22, 2001, Piu ILG applied to the Department of Lands and Physical Planning for a special agricultural business lease (SABL) over the Wafi-Golpu project land comprising of 6240 hectares. This was done without the knowledge of the people of Yanta, Hengaybu and Babuaf people, including the other seven villages in the area.

On July 24, 2001, an SABL lease was granted to the Piu ILG by the minister for lands under the Land Act comprising of 50,000 hectares instead of the 6240 hectares applied for. This grant was vehemently disputed by the Yanta, Hengabu, Babuaf people as well as the other known seven villages within the area.

On May 18, 2003, following pressures and protests by these groups within the 50,000 hectares of land, the new minister for lands and physical planning intervened and revoked Piu’s SABL lease. His decision was based on the non-compliance of the requirements and provisions of the Land Act under Section 10 and 102.

On Nov 19, 2004, the Piu ILG, not satisfied with the minister’s revocation of its SABL lease, applied to the National Court for judicial review for which leave was granted on May 5, 2005. The minister’s revocation was cancelled and Piu’s ILG title was restored, albeit temporarily.

On Aug 29, 2005, Yanta, Hengabu, Babuaf and Towangola appealed to the Supreme Court for a judicial review of the National Court order of Aug 18, 2004. The appeal was upheld and the National Court judgment was declared void, and the SABL lease granted to Piu on July 24, 2001, was declared null and void.

So to whoever is still supporting the Piu ILG claims of ownership over the Wafi-Golpu project land, I hope the above information gives you a clear picture of the situation. Questions should be asked about how Piu’s claim of 6240 hectares ended up with 50,000 hectares of customary land, especially when the land is communally owned?

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Doctor protesting proposed seabed mining with ocean swim

The Stewards plan to swim 26kms in total – the mine’s distance off shore – by swimming along the coast from Pātea to Whanganui too.

Jane Matthews | Stuff NZ | March 15 2019

Despite the risk of falling victim to the sea he’s trying to save, a 61-year-old doctor is preparing to swim across a proposed-seabed mining site more than 20 kilometres off shore.

Athol Steward is campaigning against the planned seabed mine off the coast of South Taranaki by swimming 15 kilometres in the shape of an X across the area.

“The depiction of a cross is a ‘no-go zone’ or ‘no entry’ – that is the graphic or symbolic message,” Steward said.

Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) has been trying to get consent to mine 50 million tonnes of ironsand from a 66-square kilometre area off the South Taranaki Bight for years.

Its consent has been denied, accepted, and then overturned in the Court or Appeal late last year and is currently sitting before the High Court. TTR has appealed the Court of Appeal’s decision against it. 

Steward said he has been against seabed mining from the start. 

“My concern is that it will disturb the marine environment in the way that there will be long term and permanent damage to the environment.”

In September, Steward and his Christchurch-based son Lloyd, 30, came up with the campaign ‘Making Waves’.

“We were very keen on a swim at the mine site, just because of that symbolism it carries.

“I expect it’s going to be done in fairly rough conditions, I don’t think you get the bahamas out there.”

Steward plans to swim 26km all up – the mine’s distance off shore – by swimming along the coast from Pātea to Whanganui too.

The pair, who have very little ocean-swimming experience, and their crew are ready for action but have to wait for the right weather conditions – but have seen nothing but rough days so far.

“You would have ended up a victim of the sea you’re trying to protect.”

In 2017, Steward walked from Raglan to Pātea to raise money and awareness about the proposed seabed mine.

He raised $10,600 for the anti-mining parties’ court costs. He’s hoping to reach $100,000 with this Givealittle campaign to cover the costs to come.

South Taranaki Coastguard life member John Linn said the waters the Stewards were planning to swim were dangerous.

“The thing with the South Taranaki Bight is it can change quite quickly, like the conditions on the mountain,” Linn said.

“He should be looking at it as if he’s swimming Cook Strait.”

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South Taranaki iwi Ngāti Ruanui angry at spying by Thompson & Clark during Trans-Tasman Resources mining application

Anti seabed mining protesters were spied on by agents acting for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

Laurie Stowell | New Zealand Herald | 27 December, 2018

Revelations that the Government used private investigators to spy on protesters opposing Trans-Tasman Resources’ (TTR) seabed mining application have provoked outrage.

And one the groups targeted, South Taranaki iwi Ngāti Ruanui, is calling for a review of New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals, the government body that manages oil, gas and minerals and issues permits for exploration.

A bombshell report last week, following an inquiry by the State Services Commission, laid bare Government monitoring of groups seen as “security threats”, often through the use of private investigation firm Thompson & Clark.

The security company was given the profiles and newsletters of groups opposing oil and gas exploration and ironsand mining, such as that sought by TTR – and Ngāti Ruanui was one of the main opponents.

“The report says we were monitored and the only other word for that is spying,” Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Ruanui chief executive Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said.

The iwi is making an Official Information Act request for more information and may make a formal complaint, referring to the spying as “corrupt practices”.

Ngarewa-Packer said the iwi was “outraged but unsurprised” to discover the Government had used private investigators to spy on them.

The 150-page State Services Commission report shows “issue-motivated groups” such as the Ngāti Ruanui iwi were treated as security threats by several government departments.

It says the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), which is responsible for NZ Petroleum and Minerals, breached its code of conduct by failing to maintain an appropriate level of objectivity and impartiality.

“MBIE’s management of its regulatory responsibilities in the petroleum and minerals area … showed evidence of poor regulatory practice.”

Ngāti Ruanui chief executive Debbie Ngarewa-Packer

The inquiry uncovered system-wide failings across the public service, including a pattern of behaviour where public servants developed inappropriately close relationships with Thompson & Clark.

The monitoring started during Helen Clark’s Labour Government, with one instance in 2002, but Ngarewa-Packer said it ramped up during the last National-led Government when Simon Bridges was Energy and Resources Minister.

In 2015 he put up the “largest ever” block offer for oil and gas exploration. New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals was making “a huge effort” to bring business into the country.

Asking for opposing groups to be “monitored” called into question every decision it has made during that period, Ngarewa-Packer said.

“It makes the Crown Minerals process look corrupt.”

She said MBIE’s poor regulatory practice and bias toward iwi and stakeholders meant the ironsands exploration process “was undermined from the start”.

“What we suspected for years has sadly been confirmed – not only have we been fighting poor practising industry but we’ve also been fighting the officials charged with providing an impartial process. New Zealanders need to trust that those at the forefront of our democratic process will have a neutral view, instead of lobbying for private industry interests.”

The South Taranaki tribe was one of a number of groups opposing the ironsand mining application by TTR. During the mining proposal hearings, its people felt their concerns were ignored and officials were biased.

“We feel like we are up against not just TTR, but the officials as well.”

It seemed paranoid at the time, but Ngarewa-Packer now believes that treatment was part of a prevailing behaviour and culture.

She called for a full review of NZ Petroleum and Minerals and full disclosure. “Taxpayers and iwi need assurance the Government can be trusted.”

State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes said last week that new standards would strengthen transparency and consistency across government agencies.

“Any decision to use surveillance requires careful judgment,” Hughes said. “It must be lawful, it must be proportionate, and it must be ethical.

“It is never acceptable for an agency to undertake targeted surveillance of a person just because they are lawfully exercising their democratic rights – including their right to freedom of expression, association and right to protest.

“That is an affront to democracy.”

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Trans-Tasman Resources given leave to appeal quashing of seabed mining consent

Trans-Tasman resources want to mine ironsand off the coast of Patea.

New Zealand Herald | 24 December, 2018

Trans-Tasman Resources has been given leave to appeal the overturning of its seabed mining consent.

Leave was granted by the Court of Appeal last week, following an application by the mining company in September.

TTR is seeking to mine ironsand in the South Taranaki Bight, and it applied to the Environmental Protection Agency to take 50 million tonnes of ironsand a year from the seafloor between 22 kilometres and 36km off Patea to export to Asia.

The agency gave its consent in 2017, but opposition groups of environmentalists and iwi appealed that decision to the High Court which quashed the consents in August this year.

This week TTR said its appeal would be based on the view that the agency followed a legally correct approach in granting the consent to TTR, including conditions specifically designed to protect the marine environment and existing interests, particularly iwi.

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