CRP upset at 'premature' release of environmental report

DAVE BURGESS
Last updated 05:00 20/08/2014

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Chatham Rock Phosphate's (CRP) share price plummeted 60 per cent following a ruckus over the release of an Environmental Protection Agency Staff Report opposing its marine consent application to vacuum the seabed for phosphate.

CRP's share price yesterday dropped to a brief low of 8c a share, a fall of 60 per cent, before rebounding to 15c a share at the close of the NZX.

Chief executive Chris Castle called the release of the report on Monday "premature" and said it "should not have been issued" until the information requested of CRP had been provided.

The EPA has requested extra information from CRP on its proposal to vacuum phosphate nodules from the sea bed on the Chatham Rise, about 450km east of Christchurch.

"In order to be a fair and balanced report, it should have taken account of information we either recently provided or is still yet to be prepared," Castle said.

CRP was in the process of completing evidence and providing responses to 62 questions, some of which required detailed consideration and further research.

Castle took exception to a line in the report that said: "EPA staff are not currently able to recommend granting this marine consent on the face of CRP's application as it stands, but recognise that there is more information to be provided, which may change our view."

As an NZX-listed company, CRP is governed by continuous disclosure requirements. But Castle said the EPA issued the report on Monday without reference to the company, in the middle of a business day. "We had expected that the EPA understood the issues that would be caused by their releasing a huge swathe of information without us having the opportunity to assess the information and advise our shareholders."

EPA general manager of applications and assessment Sarah Gardner said the report evaluated the information CRP had provided as at August 7 - 11 days before the report was released.

"Further information on the application and its effects is to come from both the applicant, and in the form of evidence and submissions from other parties. Our assessment of that information has the potential to alter the recommendations made in our current staff report."

Castle welcomed those comments but maintained the report had been premature.

The EPA said a two-week extension was requested by CRP on August 4. A message saying the report would be issued on August 18 was emailed to all parties and published on EPA's website. At no stage did CRP ask for the report to be issued in non-trading hours.

The hearing on the CRP application by the decision-making committee is scheduled to start on September 25. A decision is due about December 18.

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- The Dominion Post

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