Environmental group lauds 'victory for the oceans' after mining company loses appeal

6:57 pm on 5 April 2020

An environmental group says a Court of Appeal decision upholding a ruling preventing the mining of millions of tonnes of ironsands off the coast of Taranaki is a victory for the ocean.

Taranaki coast looking towards Moturoa Island and Tokomapuna Island from New Plymouth.

Photo: 123RF

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASAM) has been in a protracted battle - alongside other environmental groups, iwi and fishery companies - with mining company Trans-Tasman Resources.

It was attempting to get a High Court decision quashing consents granted to it in 2017 overturned.

Instead, the Court of Appeal found there had been multiple errors in granting the original consents.

KASAM spokesperson Cindy Baxter said Friday's decision was vindication for years of hard work.

"This is a victory for the oceans. The Court of Appeal has ruled that protecting the environment is the bottomline and that's what we've argued all the way through.

"They can't just go and dig up 50 million tonnes of the seabed every year for 35 years and claim there's no impact on the environment. So we're really, really pleased, it's fantastic for the people, for the whales and all the creatures in the Taranaki Bight."

The Court of Appeal, in its decision, found the Environmental Protection Authority's decision making committee, which required the casting vote of its chair to grant the original consents, focused on too much on managing the effects of the proposed project instead of its primary objective of protecting the environment.

"The DMC erred in focusing on the sustainable management objective that applies to all marine consents under the Exclusive Economic Zone Act, and failing to give separate and explicit consideration to the environmental bottom line of protecting the environment from pollution caused by discharges of harmful substances."

The court also found interests of Treaty of Waitangi principles were not adhered to.

"The kaitiakitanga relationship between tangata whenua and the marine environment and its resources is a relevant 'existing interest'. That kaitiakitanga relationship includes, but is not limited to, the stewardship and use of natural resources such as kai moana. The cultural and spiritual elements of kaitiakitanga must also be considered."

Anti-seabed mining protestors outside the Environmental Protection Authority hearing into Trans Tasman Resources seabed mining application.

Anti-seabed mining protestors outside the Environmental Protection Authority hearing into Trans Tasman Resources seabed mining application in 2017. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

The Māori Party also welcomed the decision and congratulated Ngāti Ruanui and Te Kaahui o Rauru for their perseverance.

"Here in Aotearoa, from Raukūmara to Te Hiku to Kaikōura to Pātea, we have seen that Māori are on the frontline of resisting extractive industries that pollute our environment and pushing for transformative climate action," Māori Party president Che Wilson said.

"Ngāti Ruanui and (Māori Party candidate) Debbie Ngarewa-Packer have led the fight against seabed mining in Aotearoa. If elected as the MP for Te Tai Hauāuru this year, Debbie will take that fight into Parliament."

Wilson said the Māori Party position was to ban all seabed mining permits across Aotearoa.

"We would also ban new onshore oil and gas permits, fracking, and new coal mines. A vote for the Māori Party is a vote for strong action on climate change and protecting our natural environment."

If Trans-Tasman Resources resource consents application had been successful it wanted mine for iron ore in a 66sq km area of seabed off the Taranaki Bight.

The company intended to dig up to 50 million tonnes of sand each year, extract the iron ore from it, and dump the residue on the sea floor.

It has said the scheme would create 300 jobs and add $160 million to New Zealand's GDP.

In a statement yesterday, chairman Alan J Eggers said Trans-Tasman Resources was awaiting its legal team's analysis of, and advice on, the Court of Appeal's rulings and conclusions.

Eggers said further comment on the Court of Appeal Judgement would be made once its board had received that advice.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs