Tag Archives: New Zealand

NZ Seabed mining battle continues

Ngati Ruanui protested against Trans-Tasman Resources’ bid for marine consent to mine the seabed for iron sand. More than 6000 people signed the petition calling for a moratorium on seabed mining. (File photo: Monique)

TTR plans to appeal seabed mining decision

Jane Matthews | Stuff NZ | September 21 2018

Trans Tasman Rescorses have decided to appeal the High Court decision that quashed their consent to mine up to 50 million tonnes of ironsand from a 66 square kilometre area off the South Taranaki Bight for 35 years. (File photo)

A mining company who has had their controversial consent to mine the seabed off South Taranaki denied for the second time has decided to appeal the High Court decision to stop them.

Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) has been trying to gain access to mine the South Taranaki seabed for years and was granted it in August 2017 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, about three weeks ago the High Court quashed their consent on the grounds that the company’s method of environmental management was illegal.

TTR executive chairman Alan Eggers announced on Friday the company intended to lodge an appeal against the High Court’s decision, but first had to gain the permission of the court to do so. 

“Today TTR has lodged a notice to the Court of Appeal to seek leave to appeal the High Court judgment of August 28, 2018 regarding our marine consents for the South Taranaki Bright iron sands project,” Eggers said.

“It’s before the court and we’ll respect that and we’ll now have to see if the court will accept an appeal.”

Eggers would not answer any of Stuff‘s questions but said the basis of TTR’s appeal would be that they believe the EPA did follow a “legally correct approach in granting a marine discharge consent”.

The High Court decision to quash TTR’s contract, which granted consent from the EPA to mine up to 50 million tonnes of ironsand from a 66 square kilometre area off the South Taranaki Bight for 35 years, was because they’d planned to use an “adaptive management approach”.

Adaptive management is allowing an activity with uncertain effects and continually assessing it – essentially trying it out, seeing what happens and adapting the conditions accordingly, which was argued to be illegal under New Zealand law applying to the Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf.

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining chairperson Cindy Baxter wished TTR would just ‘go away’ after years of battling. TOM PULLAR-STRECKER/STUFF

Cindy Baxter is the chairperson of Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (Kasm), who were one of the parties who appealed the granting of consent, and said she was “unsurprised” with TTR’s desire to appeal the decision.

This is TTR’s second application to mine. It first applied and was denied in 2014, and Baxter was sick of them continuing to push despite denial and vocal opposition.

“I really wish that they would just go away – there’s a huge opposition,” she said.

“We’re standing on the shoulders of tens of thousands of people.”

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Environmentalists win appeal against seabed mining decision

KASM chairwoman Cindy Baxter said the news was a victory for those who fought against the seabed mining consent. TOM PULLAR-STRECKER/STUFF

Catherine Groenestein and Christina Persico  | Stuff NZ | August 28 2018

The South Taranaki Bight seabed mining decision was overturned because its method of environmental management was illegal, the High Court ruled.

In August last year, Trans Tasman Resources was granted consent to mine up to 50 million tonnes of ironsand from a 66sqkm area off the South Taranaki Bight for 35 years by the Environmental Protection Authority. Following a split decision a casting vote was used in favour of TTR’s consent. 

However, the decision was appealed in the High Court by 11 parties and a hearing was carried out in the Wellington High Court in April, but Justice Peter Churchman reserved his decision. The decision was released on Tuesday and ruled in favour of the environmentalists.

The judge ruled incorrect interpretation of legal terms around protecting the ocean environment “may well have influenced” the outcome of the seabed mining consent.

It was found the decision-making committee’s (DMC) conditions either was or contributed to an “adaptive management approach”, which was not permitted in an area governed by the EEZ Act, and labelled a “suck it and see” method by appellants. 

Adaptive management is allowing an activity with uncertain effects and continually assessing it – any unanticipated effects must be able to be managed by changing or stopping the activity.  

The judge ruled that the interpretation was “inconsistent with the purpose of the Act” in protecting the environment from pollution and with the obligation to favour caution and environmental protection if the information available was inadequate.

The error “may well have” influenced the outcome of the consent application, it was ruled.

“The appeal is allowed and the decision of the DMC [decision making committee] is quashed. The matter is referred back to the DMC for reconsideration, applying the correct legal test in relation to the concept of adaptive management approach,” the decision outcome said. 

The appellents argued it was illegal under New Zealand law applying to the EEZ and continental shelf, and the judge agreed.

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (Kasm) and Greenpeace issued a joint press release saying the overturning was a “victory for the oceans”. 

“This is a victory for the thousands of people who have protested and the 13,000 who made submissions against this awful proposal, a victory for the South Taranaki Bight, the blue whales and the entire New Zealand marine ecosystem,” Kasm chair Cindy Baxter said.

The main part of the decision by Justice Churchman focused on what the appellants all argued was “adaptive management” – a practice of essentially “trying it out and seeing what happens, and adapting the conditions accordingly”. That, they argued, was illegal under New Zealand law applying to the Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf.

The judge agreed with these arguments, and has sent the decision back to the EPA “for reconsideration, applying the correct legal test in relation to the concept of adaptive management approach”.

“This is a huge win for the oceans, and for people power. Oceans are the life support system of our planet,” Greenpeace NZ executive director Russel Norman said in the statement. 

“I certainly hope this will be the last we’ll see of these wannabe miners.”

In overturning the EPA’s decision, the High Court had prevented “vandalism” of the ocean and a habitat for blue whales, Norman said.

Chris Wilkes, who was with Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (Kasm) at the appeal hearing but has since resigned from his post, was heading out to sea just minutes after hearing the news.

“The whole idea of the ocean being desecrated is a personal thing for me, I’ll be sitting at Stent Rd knowing it’s safe, that’s such a relief.” 

Hopefully this is the last we see of TTR, he said.

“On a personal level it took a lot of my life, its great to see that has paid off.”

Ngati Ruanui said the High Court win proved voices and actions counted.

“We have fought this battle twice and won each time,”  Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui Trust Kaiarataki Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said.

“This is a clear sign that the EPA did not get things right to start with so we hope they’re actually listening this time.”

Ngati Ruanui will keep up the pressure to decline this archaic form of economic development should TTR appeal this decision, Ngarewa-Packer said.

She said the iwi led the appeal because it “goes to the heart of who we are as tangata whenua, ensuring generations can enjoy our shoreline”.

Fisheries Inshore New Zealand said the High Court decision “confirmed our view that the application, and the DMC’s decision, were deficient”.

Forest & Bird chief executive Kevin Hague said the news would give the country’s only known population of blue whale a reprieve from the imminent threat of experimental seabed mining.  

“This area is habitat for 34 species of marine mammals, including Hector’s and Māui dolphins, humpback whales, and New Zealand’s own population of blue whale,” Hague said in a statement.

“This activity would likely kill everything on the seafloor, and severely disrupt the habitat of blue whales and other sound sensitive creatures.”

The Green Party’s Gareth Hughes said: 

“Risking the habitat of threatened Blue Whales and the world’s smallest and most endangered dolphin, the Maui’s for a quick buck went against New Zealanders values and now, also against our law.

“The Green Party has long been opposed to seabed mining and is urging New Zealand adopt a seabed mining moratorium as other states have.”

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Another NZ seabed mining permit lapses

Another seabed mining permit lapses: industry future is in question

KASM | Scoop NZ | 1 August 2018

The news that seabed mining company Trans Tasman Resources Ltd (TTR) has let yet another New Zealand mining permit lapse was heralded today by Kiwis Against Seabed Mining.

On Thursday last week, the TTR prospecting permit for a 4435 square kilometre section of the seabed off the West Coast quietly lapsed, and is not being renewed. This is the second such permit the company has allowed to lapse in the last six months, the first being near Kawhia off the North Island’s West Coast just south of Raglan.

The company has confirmed that it has let the permit lapse as it waits for the result of a High Court appeal (heard in April) brought by KASM and a number of other interests against the EPA’s consent for mining a 66sqkm area of the South Taranaki Bight seabed. Whatever the outcome of the appeal, there will be a long process before it’s resolved, with the possibility of more court action, or another EPA hearing.

“This gives the Government an opportunity to re-think the logic of these seabed mining bids off our coastlines, not least because of the threat to endangered species like Māui and Hector’s dolphins, fisheries, seabirds and our surf breaks,” said KASM chairperson, Cindy Baxter.

“After years of effort, where are we? Two seabed mining applications have been refused, a third is under appeal, permits are dropping like flies, the companies are struggling financially, there are still huge concerns around the environmental impact, and opposition is growing stronger by the day. It’s time for the government to put a stop to this madness.” 

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Te Atiawa and Taranaki Iwi fundamentally opposed to seabed mining activity

In addition to endangered Māui dolphins, other marine mammals, including fur seals, common dolphins, and orcas (killer whales) can be found in the Marine Park boundaries.

Te Atiawi iwi | 13 July 2018

Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa Trust and Te Kāhui o Taranaki Trust are fundamentally opposed to seabed mining activities within their tribal rohe.

Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa Trust and Te Kāhui o Taranaki Trust were notified of the exploration permit application by Ironsands Offshore Mining Ltd in 2016 and each iwi made a submission opposing the application back in September 2016.

Both Iwi organisations were informed of the granting of the permit on 8 June 2018, a month after the permit had been granted by New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals on 8 May 2018.

Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa Trust Chairperson Liana Poutu is concerned that the permit area includes a Marine Mammal Sanctuary.

“The permit has been granted inside a Marine Mammal Sanctuary which is administered and managed by the Department of Conservation.

“We find it difficult to understand how one arm of government, New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals, can cut across another arm of government and make these kinds of decisions without engagement on the issue.

“The permit area also sits inside a mineral mining exclusion zone, so although it’s only exploration at this stage the implication is that if exploration is successful there is an expectation that a mining permit will be granted in an area that excludes this activity.

“Fundamentally, the iwi and hapū of Te Atiawa are opposed to this activity,” she says.

Te Kāhui o Taranaki Trust Chairperson Leanne Horo says that the protection of our environment is a focus for Taranaki Iwi.

“Taranaki Iwi’s focus is on protecting, enhancing and sustaining the mouri of Tangaroa ki Tai.

“The Ngā Motu/Sugar Loaf Island Marine Protected Area and Tapuae Marine Reserve sit within the Te Atiawa tribal rohe and our Taranaki Iwi tribal rohe so it’s concerning to us that the permit has been granted in close proximity to these areas.

“We are launching our environmental management plan, Taiao Taiora, in the coming week which outlines our position on environmental issues.

“Taranaki Iwi is fundamentally opposed to any new mining or prospecting activity taking place within our rohe,” she says.

The permit area at its closest is 2.8km from shore, and sits almost entirely in the West Coast North Island Marine Mammal Sanctuary established in 2008. The permit area at its closest is 0.45km from the Ngā Motu/Sugar Loaf Island Marine Protected Area and at its closest is 1km from the Tapuae Marine Reserve. The permit area overlaps the Mineral Mining Exclusion Zone in two places.

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New Zealand’s blue whales under threat from seafloor mining

SCUBA News |  23 May 2018

A group of blue whales that frequent the South Taranaki Bight between the North and South islands of New Zealand appears to be part of a local population that is genetically distinct from other blue whales in the Pacific Ocean and Southern Ocean, a new study has found.

Hydrophones deployed in the region recorded blue whale calls on 99.7 percent of the days between January and December in 2016.

“There is no doubt that New Zealand blue whales are genetically distinct, but we’re still not certain about how many of them there are,” researcher Dawn Barlow commented. “We have generated a minimum abundance estimate of 718, and we also were able to document eight individuals that we re-sighted in multiple years in New Zealand waters, including one whale seen in three of the four years with a different calf each time, and many others we saw at least once.”

The study, led by Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute, is important because the South Taranaki Bight has several oil and gas extraction rigs and the New Zealand government recently issued its first permit for mining the seafloor there for iron sands. Churning up the sand could muddy the sea and disrupt the natural food chain. The sand will be sucked up to a floating production vessel, the valuable iron content removed and shipped away for further processing while the sandy remains are pumped back to the seabed.

The blue whales found off New Zealand are not quite as large as Antarctic blue whales, which scientists believe to be the largest animals to have ever lived on Earth. Antarctic blues, when they reach adulthood, can range from 28 to 30 meters in length (nearly 100 feet). The other blue whales, though slightly smaller, are still formidable at about 22 meters in length (or 72 feet).

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NZ Scientists to simulate controversial seabed mining effects

The Chatham Rise is home to an abundance of seafloor species. Trawling operations and seabed mining proposals there have been controversial. (Photo / File)

Jamie Morton | NZ Herald | 7 May 2018

Kiwi scientists investigating the impacts of controversial seabed mining are about to simulate the effects themselves, in one of the most challenging underwater experiments Niwa [National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research] has ever attempted.

Only two seabed ventures have ever been developed in New Zealand and both have been met with staunch opposition.

That was amid concern the operations would disturb sea life at their operation sites – and more widely through drifting plumes of sediment and other environmental effects.

In an MBIE-funded effort to learn more about the impacts, scientists will deploy at least nine high-tech instruments on the seabed on the Chatham Rise – the area off the Canterbury coast where one company has plans to mine phosphate.

Among the equipment, to be placed in water 500m deep, is an underwater glider, three undersea observational platforms known as “benthic landers”, a multi-corer to take sediment samples, seabed moorings, water column sampling equipment, an underwater camera that will be towed above the seafloor and a “benthic disturber”.

The dispersal of the plume will then be monitored, and surveys before and after the disturbance will measure the effects on the seabed animals.

Voyage leader and Niwa principal scientist Dr Malcolm Clark said some of the equipment has not been tried before in this situation and deploying so many instruments at once was “extraordinarily complex”.

“However, this is very important work that will enable us to provide information about the nature and extent of impacts associated with human activities in the deep sea and the level of resilience of the organisms living there.”

The data collected will be used to build up a picture of how the biological communities on the seabed may be affected by the sediment stirred up by mining, as well as bottom-trawl fishing.

Uncertainty about the effects of sediment plumes had contributed to applications for seabed mining being declined – and the plumes were also a big environmental concern for sustainable fisheries certification.

Niwa’s research vessel Tangaroa will lead the expedition. Photo / File

“These activities create plumes of sediment but we don’t know how the sediment affects seabed life as it settles again on the seafloor, and how much deep-sea animals can withstand,” Clark said.

“We are doing this experiment on a small scale on the Chatham Rise but it will give us a much better idea of how environmental managers and industry can work to mitigate larger-scale disturbance effects.”

The benthic disturber was about 4.5m-long and 2.4m-wide and contained a pump that mixed sediment with water and turned it into a slurry as it was towed along.

The slurry was then pumped out a central chimney to create the plume, which would be tracked and monitored as it drifted and dispersed through the ocean. It was estimated the disturbance would take place over about half a square kilometre of seabed.

The benthic landers, which have been built by Niwa and not yet used at sea, would carry a variety of high-definition cameras, lights and instruments to record physical, chemical and biological activity.

Niwa’s ocean glider and a modified acoustic towfish would follow research vessel Tangaroa, measuring turbidity and the density of the plume, while water samples from inside and outside the plume will be collected.

A towed camera would also record high-definition still images and video of the seafloor, which would be sampled by small coring and sled equipment.

Three seabed moorings were also being installed at an undisturbed control site, where they would remain for a year.

The information they record would be used for comparison with the disturbed area.

A lab-based programme would run alongside the work at sea that will provide further information on the resilience of the seabed ecosystem.

The research team planned to collect live sponges and corals and bring them back to a Niwa laboratory, where their resilience to various sediment loads will be tested.

“We will compare the measurements taken during the Chatham Rise disturbance experiment with a controlled experiment in the lab, which may be able to tell us the tipping point at which these communities either cope well or are significantly impacted,” Clark said.

“The field and laboratory studies together will be a powerful combination to address when too much sediment is ecologically significant.”

The collaborative project was the first of three surveys, with the monitoring to be repeated next year and in 2020 to measure longer-term effects and potential recovery of seabed communities.

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NZ seabed iron sand mining decision reserved

Opponents of seabed iron sand mining gathered more than 6000 signatures on a petition calling for a moratorium on seabed mining. (File photo: Monique Ford)

Stuff | April 19 2018

The finely balanced decision to consent to seabed mining of iron sand might have swung the other way if the decision makers had properly considered some factors, a lawyer says.

Eleven parties have appealed against the consents that were granted last August to Trans-Tasman Resources Ltd.

The appeal hearing in the High Court at Wellington wrapped up on Thursday with Justice Peter Churchman reserving his decision.

The 66 square kilometres off the South Taranaki coast (shown in dark green) where Trans Tasman Resources has applied to mine iron ore.

The final speaker was Davey Salmon, a lawyer for Greenpeace and Kiwis Against Seabed Mining, who said the consent decision had been as finally balanced as it was possible to be.

The Environmental Protection Authority had appointed a four-person decision making committee.

When the committee was deadlocked the chairman had the deciding vote, so even though members of the committee were split two against two, the outcome was that the consents were granted.

Salmon said the committee did not have enough information on which to make its decision, and did not give proper weight to issues that counted against allowing seabed mining.

The committee chairman had a legal obligation to exercise the casting vote favouring caution, and exercise caution where information was lacking, he said.

Trans-Tasman Resources’ lawyer, Justin Smith, QC, said it was unlikely the chairman was meant to change his vote because another committee member disagreed with him.

Even if the judge found against Trans-Tasman Resources on one or more points, it did not mean the decision had to be quashed, Smith said. He asked for a further hearing to discuss the consequences, if the judge intended to allow the appeal.

The lawyer for Māori and fishing interests, Francis Cooke, QC, said the two members who granted the consents had not grappled with a key problem.

The seabed that was to be mined was in the exclusive economic zone off the south Taranaki coast, up to the boundary of the coastal marine area, closer to shore, which came under resource management rules.

Mining would create a significant sediment plume that would spread into the coastal marine area where it was prohibited, Cooke said.

Trans-Tasman Resources said the marine consent and marine discharge consent it was granted were enough to allow mining to proceed, but the opponents said resource consent was also needed.

Regardless of that issue, it was already signalled that whichever way the judge decided, the outcome was likely to be appealed.

The committee granted the 35-year consents subject to conditions, including that two years of monitoring had to take place before Trans-Tasman Resources was allowed to begin mining up to 50 million tonnes of seabed material a year to extract iron ore for export.

A remote-controlled dredge would vacuum sand from the sea bed in depths between about 20 metres and 42m, to a processing ship. The dredging was planned in an area 22 kilometres to 36km offshore from Patea.

It was planned that about 90 per cent of the material would be returned to the sea. Opponents said the noise and sediment plume would cause fish to avoid the area, and would result in long term, if not permanent, damage to the environment and cultural concerns of Māori.

The company said the area was already intensively fished, had gas and oil installations, and was a rugged environment subject to naturally occurring sediment flows from rivers.

Taranaki iwi Ngāti Ruanui, and Trustees of Te Kaahui o Rauru, along with Greenpeace, Kiwis Against Seabed Mining, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, the Taranaki-Whanganui Conservation Board, Cloudy Bay Clams, the Federation of Commercial Fishermen, Southern Inshore Fisheries Management Company, Talleys Group, and Te Ohu Kai Moana Trustee Ltd, appealed against the consents.

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