Tag Archives: New Zealand

Last-minute info request from seabed miner unfair say opponents

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining spokesperson Phil McCabe says it is clear the EPA had embarked on an exercise of completing and, in effect, proving the applicant’s case. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Robin Martin | Radio New Zealand | 24 April 2017

Opponents of a proposal to mine millions of tonnes of ironsand from the seabed off the Taranaki coast say the hearings process has been biased.

They say the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has bent over backwards to help the applicant Trans-Tasman Resources prove its case, at the expense of those opposed to it.

Trans-Tasman Resources has applied for consents to dig up 50 million tonnes of the South Taranaki Bight seabed every year for 35 years, for a net return five million tonnes of iron ore annually.

The company says it will earn about $400 million in export earnings a year, with the government pocketing about $6m in royalties, and create about 300 jobs.

Opponents claim the technology is unproven and the project could do irreparable damage to sensitive marine environments.

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) spokesperson Phil McCabe said a last-minute request for Trans-Tasman Resources to provide more information on the sediment plume and noise was unfair on other submitters.

“To call for brand-new information is just not OK, because that information needed to be at the front-end of the process and our view is that this call for new information makes this whole hearing process essentially null and void.”

Mr McCabe said the call for new information came on top of an earlier extension to allow the company to get more data, for an application that he said should have been rejected in September last year on the basis of being incomplete.

He feared there were other factors in play.

“It’s clear to us that there is downward pressure upon the EPA, being placed upon the EPA, to get this application over the line.

“It’s obvious with three ministries MBIE [the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment], MPI [the Ministry of Primary Industries] and DOC [the Department of Conservation] all giving it the tick and the go-ahead.”

Mr McCabe said KASM would seek a judicial review of the process, a declaratory statement, or an appeal on the basis of a flawed process.

“It is demonstrably clear that the EPA has embarked on an exercise of completing and, in effect, proving the applicant’s case. This is an unlawful exercise of power which also significantly prejudices submitters in opposition to the application.”

The group was not alone. Fisheries submitters, Ngāti Ruanui and Forest and Bird were also angry, and all wrote to the EPA to say so.

Ngāti Ruanui chief executive Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said if the Trans-Tasman Resources application was not clear it should have been rejected. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Ngāti Ruanui chief executive Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said when it wanted more time or information the authority put up road blocks, but it had done the complete opposite for Trans-Tasman Resources.

“Our general view which has been emphasised throughout this whole ridiculous process has been if the information wasn’t clear in the application at the beginning it shouldn’t have been accepted.

“And this behaviour, this need for them to have more information, further validates our concerns.”

Ms Ngarewa-Packer said the iwi was also planning a legal challenge and she feared there would be backlash among her people if the application was approved.

“I think they’ll be incensed, I think they’ll be furious and there’s a large degree of being resigned to being ripped off and treated poorly.

“I think that they are absolutely appalled at the disregard they’ve faced as the little people and there’s very much the sense of David versus Goliath.”

In its response to the submitters’ criticism, the chairman of the authority’s decision-making committee, Alick Shaw, said the Exclusive Economic Zone Act imposed an obligation on it to seek information throughout the hearings process and provided wide powers for it to do so.

“The requests for further information are made with due consideration to the obligation to establish a procedure that is appropriate and fair. The DMC [decision-making committee] has always taken steps to ensure that there is a process allowing parties an opportunity to respond, and this will continue to be the case.”

The EPA has received more than 14,000 submission on Trans-Tasman Resources’ application, the overwhelming majority against the project.

The hearings are now due to end at the end of May, and a decision on whether it is approved is due 20 days later.

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NZ seabed mining plan is madness

Black gold: Taranaki’s seabed could be mined. Photo/file

‘Companies involved in these boom-and-bust industries are known for rushing ahead with great gusto, only to suddenly scale back production, laying off workers as jobs disappear and, in fact, often disappearing altogether, leaving behind damaged ecosystems and pollution for the community to clean up’

Graham Pearson | NZ Herald | April 10, 2017

NEW Zealand resources have been ravaged through history by boom-and-bust industries that have extracted timber, gum, gold, coal, oil and gas.

Now there is a crazy proposal to mine at sea our West Coast black sand, using untried and untested processes, with its suggested economics based on yet another old-fashioned boom-and-bust industry.

Just a few minutes’ Google search revealed the crazy price fluctuations of iron and steel. From a maximum price of US$191 ($275) in February 2011, iron crashed to US$37 in December 2015, while steel has an even bigger range: US$1265 in June 2008 to just US$90 March 2016.

Companies involved in these boom-and-bust industries are known for rushing ahead with great gusto, only to suddenly scale back production, laying off workers as jobs disappear and, in fact, often disappearing altogether, leaving behind damaged ecosystems and pollution for the community to clean up.

Recently spending two days attending the EPA’s Decision Making Committee (DMC) hearing in New Plymouth, I was heartened to hear many, many organisations, iwi and members of the local communities speaking out for most of those two days against yet another extraction industry. Members of the fishing and dive clubs provided amazing footage of the undersea world just off the Taranaki coast, giving all of us present an idea of the wonderful environment that is at stake. Others spoke for the mammals that live in or travel through this section of the Taranaki bight.

Others spoke with passion of their connections with the sea through their lifestyle and heritage, which they see as threatened with the TTR’s proposal. Some objectors, with experience of sea-based industries, were able to give us valuable perspectives of this huge ocean-based proposal, with its weather-related risks and disruption to the ocean floor.

A locally based economist pointed out to the DMC how the trickle-down idea for economic value has not worked in the Taranaki oil and gas industries. These extraction industries are known for “fly-in” workers taking the skilled, high-paying jobs, leaving only lower level and support industry jobs for the locals. He also pointed out that while New Plymouth and close environs might gain support for Womad and other local community activities, South Taranaki remains an economically depressed area with low incomes, job shortages and a high level of child poverty.

We even know, from Minister Judith Collins’ recent statement, that the oil and gas industry needs multimillion-dollar handouts to close down its end-of-life wells.

In contrast to this valuable evaluation of the proposal, our “guardian” organisations, DOC and councils, took a neutral stance.

The Government’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has supported the proposal and seems to think it’s wonderful — despite TTR’s previous application being declined, and the company seeming to need a Callaghan Innovation Fund grant of $15 million to keep it afloat while preparing to submit its second application.

The DMC has extended the hearing deadline to the end of May, against some community opposition, to further examine the sand plume issue and consider possible mitigation options.

So we wait until June to see if the decision is again a sensible decline or if we get yet another extraction industry.

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NZ Maori blasts EPA decision to extend seabed mining hearing

The New Zealand Herald | 28 March 2017

Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui Trust has blasted a decision to extend the hearing into Trans Tasman Resources’ plan to mine ironsands from the seabed off South Taranaki.

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) hearing was due to finish on March 20 but has been extended until May 31. It then has 20 days to make a decision.

The EPA delayed the completion date after more investigation was needed into sediment plume modelling, and working out worst case scenarios.

Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui kaiarataki Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said the trust along with the several fisheries organisations, including Talley’s Group Limited and

Fisheries Inshore New Zealand, opposed the extension because it “unreasonably added cost, time and effort to an application that was already seen as inadequate”.

She said there had been “a clear one-sided advantage throughout the whole process”.

Ngarewa-Packer said there was an allowance under law to extend the hearing but the scales were tipped in the wrong direction.

“Trans Tasman Resources are set up to focus on one thing, while the hundreds who oppose this can only draw on a finite amount time and money.

“As it stands, TTR have failed to dispel any of the uncertainties brought up during the hearings to date.

“So why give them more time to address the numerous gaps in their own information?

“If it doesn’t stack up now the project should be rejected outright.”

She said the delay was another “questionable act by the EPA” which had previously “refused to hold the hearings in the area that would be affected most”.

It had also wrongly redacted information, she said.

Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui chairman Haimona Maruera Jnr said it “appeared the authority was doing everything it could to get the project over the line”.

“Moving the goal posts to suit one side is shameful and highlights the unfortunate trend of playing games with our community’s future.”

He called the process “shambolic and often confusing”.

“….we have lost all faith in the EPA and doubt it can uphold the fairness the authority should stand for.

“Our people have fought hard and fairly, yet the burden is again placed on us to exhaust further time, money and effort to protect our rights,” Maruera said.

In announcing the extension, EPA chair Alick Shaw said its Decision Making Committee (DMC) had taken into account the interests of the parties to the hearing, including the additional time and costs.

“However the DMC is conscious of its obligation [under law] to base its decision on the best available information and consider that the extension serves the interests of the community in ensuring that the DMC is able to achieve an adequate assessment of the application.”

He said the DMC “thanked all parties for their contributions to the hearing up to this point.

“The DMC have received a considerable amount of information and heard a wide range of views from a large number of submitters and expert witnesses.

“Much time, effort and thought has gone into the evidence and representations that have been heard,” Shaw said.

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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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Our submissions were ignored – NZ seabed mining protesters

Busloads of people protested outside the Environmental Protection Authority hearing to consider Trans Tasman Resources’ seabed mining application. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Robin Martin | Radio NZ | 7 March 2017

Thousands of submissions against a proposed seabed mining project in Taranaki are being ignored, opponents say.

Greenpeace and Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) say the Environmental Protection Authority’s summary of the submissions is misleading, and its report should be withdrawn.

Hearings are underway now for Trans-Tasman Resources’ application to process 50 million tonnes of iron sands a year for up to 35 years, from a 65 square kilometre block off the coast of Patea.

A similar application was rejected in 2014, but the company said the science had progressed and any environmental damage would be minimal.

The environmental groups said a detailed analysis of submissions made for the application did not include more than 13,000 objections to the project that were made via their websites.

KASM spokesperson Phil McCabe said the report instead drew attention to the submissions made directly to the Environmental Protection Authority website, of which 56 percent were in favour.

“The analysis only looks in detail at the 262 submissions that went directly to the EPA website. They’ve all but ignored the other 13,400 or so submissions that came through third-party websites, through KASM and Greenpeace’s websites.”

Mr McCabe said the report gave the impression a majority of submitters were in favour of the project, which was not the case.

“It’s a bizarre approach and in our view it’s essentially disrespecting people that made submissions and not taking their views into account.

“Another issue is that those submissions are not available to be viewed on the EPA website, therefore they are not on the record.”

KASM and Greenpeace have asked for the report to be withdrawn.

But the authority’s decision-making committee said the report did not hide from the fact that there were a large number of third-party submissions opposed to the project and it would not be withdrawing it.

“In the decision-making committee’s view there is nothing misleading about the report… It does not attempt to suggest there were not a large volume of third-party web-based submissions that opposed the proposal.”

The key themes and character of the third-party submissions were set out in the report, the committee said.

“This report does not, and was never intended to, remove the requirement for committee to have regard to any and all submissions made and it will be discharging this duty accordingly.”

Iwi have lost faith

Busloads of South Taranaki Māori attended the hearings in New Plymouth yesterday where Ngāti Ruanui, Ngaa Rauru and Ngaruahine made submissions. All three iwi oppose the application.

Kaiarataki Te Runanga o Ngāti Ruanui spokesperson Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said the iwi had a good relationship with oil and gas companies and took issue with Trans Tasman Resources painting it as obstructive.

“We are not a tribe that will sit there and turn our back on opportunities. We can’t afford to be. So this myth, this legend, this whole Walt Disney story that the ‘haters and wreckers’ don’t want progress is simply not correct.”

The iwi had lost faith in Trans Tasman Resources and did not believe it could control the environmental impacts of the project, Ms Ngarewa-Packer said.

Outside the hearing, Hawera kuia Tangiora Avery simply worried about what the effect of the project would be on her mokopuna.

“The sea is a life-giving thing that has been going on for our people for centuries. It’s our food basket. We were taught from the time as babies how to go, where to go, what to do on the beach.

“When you have people tearing at your beach there’s going to be nothing left for the next generation that’s here.”

Hearings into Trans Tasman Resources’ application are due to end on 20 March and a decision is due 20 working days later.

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Caution essential, Ngā Rauru tells seabed mining hearing

The legislation that set up the Environmental Protection Authority requires it to favour caution and environmental protection, Te Pahunga Marty Davis says. PHOTO/ STUART MUNRO

Laurel Stowell | NZ Herald | March 7, 2017

The complex and chaotic seas of the South Taranaki Bight should not be subjected to the risk of seabed mining, Ngā Rauru people told an Environmental Protection Authority committee on Monday.

Ngāti Ruanui was the first tribe to speak on the first day of the authority’s seabed mining hearings in New Plymouth. It’s the closest iwi to Patea, where mining is proposed offshore. At least 72 Ngāti Ruanui people were expected to attend.

The authority is considering whether Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) can mine 65.7km of seabed 22-36km offshore from Patea, for up to 35 years.

After Ngāti Ruanui came Ngā Rauru. Its chairman Te Pahunga Marty Davis has been told the authority is legally obliged to apply the “precautionary principle” especially strongly.

“The uncertainty and insufficiency of field testing is extremely concerning for an operation that involves 65 square kilometres of what is the equivalent of underwater open-cast mining,” he said.

Approving the application would open the way for mining applications along the black sand coasts of the North Island, he said.

The iwi has had advice from legal experts from Victoria, Auckland and Otago universities, as well as writing its own submission.

On Tuesday the authority will hear from Whanganui iwi fisheries representatives, governance entity Ngā Tangata Tiaki and the Ngā Ruahine iwi. Also speaking will be Hawera’s Karen Pratt, Taranaki Regional Council, Ngā Wairiki/Ngāti Apa, Tanea Tangaroa, John Milnes and Nicola Patrick.

The hearings are expected to finish in New Plymouth on Thursday, and resume in Wellington on March 15.

TTR’s application to mine the seabed received 13,500 submissions, most of them opposed.

It’s supported by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Fairfax has reported that James Stevenson-Wallace, the general manager of its energy and resources division, told the authority the iron-sand was a “world class resource” which the ministry wanted to see developed.

“We believe that granting TTR’s marine consent sends a positive signal to investors that will support New Zealand’s efforts to support foreign investment into New Zealand,” he said.

Developing New Zealand’s mineral resources would be a critical component in helping to achieve targets set by the Government’s Business Growth Agenda, he told Fairfax.

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Massive blue whale population found in NZ proposed seabed mining area

A baby blue whale filmed nursing off the Taranaki coast observed by Leigh Torres and her crew last year was likely a world-first.

A baby blue whale filmed nursing off the Taranaki coast observed by Leigh Torres and her crew last year was likely a world-first.

Jeremy Wilkinson | Stuff NZ | February 22 2017

Blue whales – the world’s largest animal – have been found in abundant numbers in a proposed seabed mining area in Taranaki. 

Marine mammal expert Leigh Torres made a presentation to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in Wellington on Wednesday on the results of a recent survey in the South Taranaki Bight, which found a blue whale population of at least 68. 

The EPA is meeting to hear arguments for and against an application from miner Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) to mine millions of tonnes of iron sands off the coast of Patea. TTRs first application was rejected in 2014.

Torres, a professor from Oregon State University professor who has carried out research in Taranaki waters in collaboration with the Department of Conservation, said seabed mining will have a severe impact on the whale population in the area.  

“The likely impacts of seabed mining are increased noise in the area, which could seriously affect the whales and their primary prey which is krill,” she said. 

“The mining will be noisy and whales’ hearing is crucial to them, they rely more on it than they do eyesight.

“But it’s the sediment created from uplifting the sand that could affect the krill which would in turn affect the whales feeding.”

Torres and her team observed 68 individual whales over 32 sightings during nine days this year, more than twice the number of whales they observed last year when they captured world-first footage of a calf feeding from its mother. 

Torres said that whales are generally seen by the scientific community as being migratory animals, but her study so far indicates that the population they’ve been following have made South Taranaki their home.

“All we really know for certain at this stage is that the South Taranaki Bight is very important to this population,” she said. 

“We’ve observed them surface-feeding but we also hear them through hydrophones calling to each other almost daily. So we know they’re there a lot of the time.”

Torres said the team had identified mating calls from males which indicated the whales were staying around to breed.

Although TTR has offered certain mitigation strategies to protect the whales, such as deploying its own hydrophones to monitor the population, Torres said it wasn’t enough.

“The evidence I’ve presented at the hearing supports the argument of the opposition to the mining,” she said. 

“But my own personal opinion is that the mining is not worth the risk to the whales.”

Oil and gas activities have operated with the Taranaki region for decades as New Zealand’s only oil-producing basin, but Torres feared the effects of adding mining to the mix could do cumulative damage. 

This is Trans Tasman Resource’s second application to the EPA to mine more than 50 million tonnes of iron-laden sand per year from a 66 square kilometre area off the coast of Patea. 

The company’s application was rejected in 2014 amid concerns of a lack of knowledge as to the environmental effects of their proposal. 

When they applied last year the EPA saw a record number of submissions flood in against the proposal – more than 17,000 – in an effort spearheaded by New Zealand anti-mining group Kiwis Against Seabed Mining. 

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