Business lobby group unhappy mining blocked

17:00, Jun 19 2014

New Zealand's top business lobby group says a decision to scuttle a massive ironsand mining operation could create a "catch 22" for new industry.

On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) knocked back a Trans-Tasman Resources' (TTR) proposal to extract millions of tonnes of ironsand across 65.76 square kilometres of the South Taranaki Bight.

In the EPA's 248-page decision, it said the "major reasons" for declining the application 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".

While that was welcomed by anti-seabed mining campaigners, BusinessNZ chief executive Phil O'Reilly said the EPA had blocked an endeavour that would of created new income streams and jobs in Taranaki.

"Business wants to be responsible and supports regulations to protect the environment, but will be wondering how much certainty is realistic," he said.

"The rejection of an application to establish a new industry on the grounds of uncertainty, when 100 per cent certainty for a completely new industry is impossible, may raise the question of whether our regulatory settings themselves may be preventing new industry from being established.

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"No doubt the EPA has carried out its mandate in good faith, but business will be wondering about the effect of the decision on other new and emerging industries."

Te Runanga Ngati Ruanui Trust chief executive Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said a lot of what TTR proposed didn't have any basis in reality.

"It's just speculative," she said.

She said any suggestion this would turn off investment in the region was exaggeration.

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining chairman Phil McCabe said the economics of the proposal set out by the company were highly questionable.

"The country would have gotten a tiny 2 per cent royalty from the 95 per cent foreign-owned company who planned to trash our marine environment and direct export the raw material to China," McCabe said.

"Where's the long-term business sense in that?"

Taranaki Daily News