Sand mining plan sinks

Plans to mine millions of tonnes of ironsand from the South Taranaki seabed have been scuttled after a landmark hearing.

In what was seen as a test case nationwide, Trans-Tasman Resources' (TTR) proposal to extract 50 million tonnes of sediment per year, across 65.76 square kilometres, has been knocked back by the Environmental Protection Authority.

Anti-seabed mining campaigners, Fisheries Inshore New Zealand, the Green Party and iwi have welcomed the ruling, but TTR's chief executive Tim Crossley said it was "extremely disappointed".

"We have put a significant amount of time and effort into developing this project, including consulting with iwi and local communities and undertaking detailed scientific research to assess environmental impacts of the project," he said.

Te Runangi Ngati Ruanui Trust chief executive Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said it was a victory for the little guys.

"This was one battle we really needed to win," she said.

"Once it got out to our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) there was no stopping it."

Ngarewa-Packer said the whole process had shown how strong a community was when it worked together, and represented a new era of iwi taking a stand and "protecting the environment for everyone".

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining chairman Phil McCabe said during the hearing it was clear TTR had not done its homework on the full environmental impact.

"What's more, the company appeared to think that the absence of this information didn't matter," he said.

"This decision is a victory for common sense and environmental protection, for the coastal communities right up the North Island's west coast, for the Maui's dolphins that live in the area and for the blue whales that feed there."

In the Environmental Protection Authority's 248-page decision released yesterday, its decision-making committee (DMC) said the "major reasons" for knocking it back "were the uncertainties in the scope and significance of the potential adverse environmental effects and those on existing interests, such as the fishing interests and iwi".

In light of that, the EEZ Act requires the EPA to favour caution and environmental protection, the committee said.

"Overall the DMC found that the application did not meet the sustainable management purpose of EEZ Act, including that it was not satisfied that the life-supporting capacity of the environment would be safeguarded or that the adverse effects of the proposal could be avoided, remedied or mitigated, given the uncertainty and inadequacy of the information presented."

Crossley said their New Zealand staff and consultants had an uncertain future and the community would not benefit from hundreds of new jobs or about $240 million added to the GDP, annually.

TTR have 15 days to appeal the decision but it must be a question of law.

Taranaki Daily News