DOC face backlash from Taranaki iwi for backing seabed mining company
Backlash against the Department of Conservation is mounting after they gave the green light to a seabed mining company.
Trans Tasman Resources (TTR) have applied to mine a 66 square kilometre area in South Taranaki of 50 million tonnes of iron-ore laden sand from the seabed per year. Their first application was rejected in 2014.
The public can now make submissions for or against the mining application but DOC have chosen to refrain from submitting, saying in a statement that they're satisfied all conservation measures have been met.
One of Taranaki's eight iwi - Ngati Ruanui - have said DOC's decision not to submit may have cost the government a fast resolution to ongoing treaty settlements around Mt Taranaki with Ngati Ruanui and other iwi.
* DOC gives the green light to mining company wanting to mine in South Taranaki
* Seabed mining company TTR slammed as 'arrogant' by South Taranaki iwi
* Call for moratorium on all seabed mining amid 'secretive' application
* Trans Tasman Resources reapply to mine iron ore in South Taranaki
* All eight Taranaki iwi united against 'misleading' mining company
"There was no engagement, thats the real sadness in all of this, as treaty settlement partners we are supposed to work together," Kaiarataki of Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said.
"They can ring and tell us when they're releasing a kiwi but they can't ring and tell us when they're making a radical decision that will directly affect us."
Ngarewa-Packer said as a result of DOC backing TTR and the lack of consultation the department had with iwi on the matter, treaty settlement negotiations in Taranaki with Ngati Ruanui would be impacted.
"Our chair said at our last meeting after a unanimous call, that we will not go back into settlement with a government that endorses this type of activity."
"This may have a huge follow on effect to other iwi engaged in settlement. I think they've underestimated the effect.
"I just don't understand how the heck DOC signed this off."
In TTR's first application to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) DOC submitted against the company on the grounds more information was needed on the effects of mining-related noise on marine mammals and the potential destruction of habitat.
A DOC spokesperson said the department had viewed TTR's newest application to the EPA and its experts suggested several amendments to address effects on the marine environment.
"TTR accepted all the revised conditions and amendments to the monitoring and management plans requested and the department does not consider that further conservation gains will be made by submitting on the application," the spokesperson said.
DOC also highlighted several important differences between TTR's first failed application and its current application in a report which stated TTR's management conditions were "significantly more robust".
One of the key reasons TTR's first application was declined was due to a concern that sand stripped of iron ore wouldn't return to the seafloor and would impact marine animals and organisms as a result.
DOC's scientists concluded that fine sand would clump together and descend to the seafloor faster than originally thought, however Ngarewa-Packer said DOC were relying on theoretical data that hadn't been tested in the field.
A spokesperson for mining company Trans Tasman Resources said it would be inappropriate for the company to comment on EPA process.