Author questions company's right to mine seabed

Trans-Tasman Resources has no right to mine 50 million tonnes of seabed material every year off the North Island's west coast, according to children's author Tui Allen.

Allen, whose 2011 novel, Ripple, about dolphins was selected for the 2012 Frankfurt Book Fair, told an Environment Protection Agency hearing in Hamilton on Monday that humanity did not own the ocean.

"It belongs to the creatures of the sea," Allen, of Hamilton, said. "They have the right to keep it as it is."

Trans-Tasman Resources, a private company established in 2007 to explore iron sand deposits off the North Island's west coast, has applied to mine in a 65.76 square kilometre zone 22 to 36 kilometres off Patea.

The Taranaki Bight application attracted 4850 submissions nationally, some of which are being heard in Hamilton with further hearings scheduled for New Plymouth, Wanganui and Hawera.

Allen was the first of 80 Waikato submitters to speak at the hearing at Waikato Stadium yesterday considering the first marine consent application to be submitted under the Exclusive Economic and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012.

"It's like digging up your neighbour's yard to get their buried goodies. If we humans have to soil our own land that's bad enough, but can we please leave the ocean alone?"

Allen's greatest concern was for the endangered and declining Maui's dolphins, and blue, southern right and orca whales.

"Seabed mining is yet another unnecessary, greed-based human threat to these precious animals and their home. Stay out of their world please," Allen said.

She was also concerned with coastal erosion.

"Large scale mining of the Tasman seabed will remove non-renewable sand resources that supply west coast beaches up to Cape Reinga. It will cause increased coastal erosion both up- and downstream from where any mining takes place . . . at risk is a fantastic coastline, stacked with some of New Zealand's most loved and commercially valuable surf-breaks, plus a host of spectacular swimming beaches and fishing spots."

Noise from the operation will effect marine mammals and fisheries, Allen claimed, and heavy metals settled on the seabed will be disturbed with the potential to accumulate in fish species.

Carolina Hart-Meade, who lives on Mt Karioi at Raglan, told the hearing nothing happened in the environment in isolation.

"I am here because this application is about isolating materials and does not address the impact of this with a bigger picture overview of accumulative effects," Hart-Meade said.

"What Trans-Tasman Resources proposes to do with over one billion tonnes of seabed is to blow it, snort it up to a surface vessel, crush it, suck it magnetically to isolate iron ore, wash this ore in desalinated water, transfer it to another vessel, store it for an international market and spit the rest back to the sea floor. To me that's really unmaking the bed."

Hart-Meade said humanity needed to conduct itself in ways that did not destroy other species.

Her husband, Xavier Meade, who teaches visual arts and eco design at Wintec, said he opposed the application on the grounds of logic.

"To exhaust resources at the pace our civilisation is doing has taken us to huge social imbalances."

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining committee member and Raglan resident Wanda Baker said her concerns were "unapologetically philosophical and spiritual".

"How do we want our oceans to look in 100 years, 1000 years? What will the view be? Open space, blue waves, or seabed mining vessels 300 metres long and their support vessels up and down the west coast."

Baker said she did not want the west coast to become an industrial mining zone.

"That would destroy much of what I and others value about living here."

"It would seem that our politicians have created our oceans as an exclusive economic zone for commercial gain, not to protect them . . . Seabed mining is not an investment, nor is it beneficial if it threatens the sustainability of life and biosystems in our oceans."

Joan Havemann, of Raglan, was also opposed.

"Given the many environmental challenges facing us, including climate change, and the rapidly growing realisation that we simply can't go on with business as usual trashing the planet , surely the overall trend in research, development and practise is going to be in the direction of finding cleaner, greener, more energy, more energy efficient, less polluting ways to live?"

Heather Cunningham reminded the committee it was charged with protecting the environment. Of the application Cunningham said: "Not on my watch, and that's what this is, this is my watch."

She spoke of a recent encounter with a pod of common dolphins off Kawhia Harbour.

"However many there are, there's a precious few," she said. "With the Maui's dolphin we're talking an endangered species. It's a big responsibility people, you have got to make the right choice."

The hearing continues today, at Waikato Stadium from 9.30am and will conclude its Hamilton leg on Friday.

Waikato Times