Seabed mining impact queried

ISOBEL EWING
Last updated 05:00 04/02/2014

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Serious questions over the impact of seabed mining off South Taranaki are being raised by the Taranaki Regional Council.

Its submission to the Environmental Protection Authority on Trans Tasman Resources' (TTR) consent application said it does not believe the economic benefits of the mining outweigh the risks.

The council said it was not opposing the application, but wants more information relating to the potential negative effects on Taranaki's environment and people.

The submission was signed off by council director of resource management Fred McLay, but he declined to comment before the report is tabled at the tomorrow's council meeting.

Of the 258 jobs created by the mining operation, 128-159 were estimated to be held by Taranaki residents and only 20-34 of those would be in South Taranaki.

The flow-on benefits to other businesses as a result of the goods and services required to support the operation would depend on the location of the helicopter pad, the council said.

TTR had initially mentioned setting up a community trust to support local community projects but made no mention of this in its consent application.

The council said it would like to see TTR provide details of how and when the community trust would be established, the types of activities that would be considered for funding and the communities that would benefit.

A key point of concern was sediment plume resulting from extraction of sand and its effect on marine ecology and water colour and clarity.

The council said the lack of light could have flow-on effects for recreational and commercial fisheries by preventing growth of the likes of phytoplankton, which formed the base of the marine food web.

It also said TTR showed a lack of consideration of the long-term (up to 20 years) effects of the sediment plume, as its studies focused mainly on dredging operations lasting just one year.

The impact on marine mammals was also downplayed in TTR's application on the basis that blue whales and orca were rarely sighted in Taranaki waters, the council said.

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining president Phil McCabe said it was good to hear the council was taking the impacts of seabed mining seriously.

"It is a very important issue with large impacts for the coastline. There's nothing in the science showing that everything will be OK."

Mr McCabe said TTR did not seem to take its partnership with the community seriously.

"They haven't said anything until they were obliged to by law.

"If they were really trying to create a partnership with the community they would have conveyed the information earlier and willingly."

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He said TTR spoke to iwi about setting up a training programme for local people but no mention of this was made in its application.

- Taranaki Daily News

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