Fast-track consents plan won't derail fight over seabed mining - iwi

12:15 pm on 14 February 2024
Anti-seabed mining protestors outside the Environmental Protection Authority hearing into Trans Tasman Resources seabed mining application.

A protest against seabed mining in Taranaki headed to Parliament on 19 September 2016. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

A South Taranaki iwi is vowing to continue its fight against seabed mining even if the government introduces a fast-track consenting regime for significant infrastructure and development projects.

Ngāti Ruanui was responding to a 31 January letter from Minister for Infrastructure and RMA Reform Chris Bishop.

In the letter, he said a fast-track consenting bill would be introduced inside the government's first 100 days - before 7 March.

Ngāti Ruanui kaiwhakahaere Rachel Rae said the proposed bill would give an unfair advantage to companies such as Trans Tasman Resources which hoped to mine ironsands off the coast of Taranaki.

"Even if it goes ahead we will make sure that we are out there on the seabed to stop it."

She said the fast-tracking regime was a frightening prospect for the iwi which had successfully fought Trans Tasman Resources through the courts thus far.

"One of the scariest things for us is that we've been fighting the fight to ensure the environment is safe and for the wellbeing of our whānau and all those fish and those kinds of things and then the government comes in and fast tracks and allows this to happen, and it's not just New Zealand companies. These are companies coming from offshore."

Minister Bishop's letter said the proposed fast-tracking bill was part of the coalition agreement.

"We recognise how important these developments are for New Zealand's prosperity. That is why we are providing certainty and a faster consenting pathway for significant projects is a priority for us."

He said the proposed bill would have specific protections for Treaty of Waitangi settlements and other Treaty related arrangements and commitments, and projects would be assessed for compliance with these arrangements before being referred to an expert panel.

The proposed Bill would set out a "one-stop shop" for approvals under a range of legislation, including the Resource Management Act.

Bishop recognised Ngāti Ruanui's contributon to the debate.

"I acknowledge and thank you for your ongoing and valuable contribution to policy development and reform in the resource management space. I hope you will work with us as we enter the next stage."

Tutor Haimona Maruera from Te Tū Mataora said groups will bring their messages to Wellington.

Haimona Maruera Photo: RNZ / Leigh-Marama McLachlan

Ngāti Ruanui Tumu Whakaae Haimona Maruera said the proposed bill was a backward step.

"The 'fast-track' bill will undermine not only the rights of iwi but also stop the community from having any say on projects that will impact them directly. This is one of the biggest steps backward for environmental protection and will send us back to the 1970s and 1980s.

"There is little constraint on the fast-track consenting proposal. Everything becomes open to referral to this new way of consent. It is reckless."

Haimona Maruera said the new bill would "trump" all other legalisation where authority was required such as the Conservation Act and the Exclusive Economic Zone legislation out to 200 nautical miles.

"Any protection you thought you had and even the ability to submit your concerns, are gone."

He said it was alarming that the ability to decline projects under this new fast track approach would be almost impossible with Ministers planning to hold the ultimate approval rights.

"This type of approach opens the possibility of private developers to lobby ministers especially in areas such as offshore mining and using resources in the conservation estate."

Maruera said he was upset that less that 10 working days had been given for interested parties to respond before the fast-track consenting proposal was put forward.

"This is not consultation but rather a dictatorship."

He said Ngāti Ruanui would oppose this fast track consenting, along with any other proposals in the environment space which eroded its hard-fought rights as mana whenua.

The iwi was seeking urgent discussions with the Minister.

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