Iwi will appeal ironsand mining off Taranaki coast
Protesters are gearing up to fight a landmark decision which will allow a mining company to dredge 50 million tonnes of ironsand a year from the South Taranaki Bight.
At least three appeals already planned, one by affected iwi Ngati Ruanui, another by environmental group Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) and a third by Talley's Fisheries who also submitted against the mining when a previous application was declined by the EPA in 2014.
The Environmental Protection Authority today released its decision in favour of Trans Tasman Resources consent application lodged 12 months ago.
Ngati Ruanui's Debbie Ngarewa-Packer told the crowd gathered to hear the decision at Patea Area School the fight is not over.
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"We're going to appeal to the Supreme Court and the United Nations. We never give up."
The Ngati Ruanui legal team had already been preparing for an appeal, she said.
"We knew when it was delayed that there was division in the panel."
Thursday's announcement was an unwelcome confirmation of what she already suspected.
"We weren't surprised it was approved but we were surprised the panel was so divided and that gives us cause for hope.
"It tells us that 50 per cent of that panel saw reason, and to use a casting vote for something that is not status quo is off the hook really.
"I think if the Government changes they might be able to put pressure on the company but they won't be able to undo the Exclusive Economic Zone regs. Our experience of oil and minerals is once it's done it's hard to undo, that's why the high court and supreme court mahi needs to be our focus, and we will drag it out as long as we can."
Christine Corrigan from the Patea Boat Club got a round of applause to her comment after the announcement.
"We're absolutely shattered, we love the environment as much as you guys and anyone here, we're going to fight with you guys, united we stand. We're just gutted."
Hemi Ngarewa said he had been praying every morning leading up the the decision.
"I'm gutted, not just for me, I'm gutted for our mokopuna in the future."
He said the decision felt like a repeat of history, with the iwi's land being confiscated by soldiers in 1869, and now the seabed which it protected was also being taken away.
"The land confiscation was raping the land, now they are raping the sea that we are here to protect, along with all the other people, for our children, there's going to be nothing left there.
"These guys are only there for the money, they're not there to protect the habitat, they're not there to protect the seabed. What we are seeing, what I am saying now, is there's going to be no life in that seabed for our children for tomorrow."
He had been confident the EPA would rule against the application.
"I was surprised. I was confident all the way. I just hope that Debbie and the legal team will be able to turn them around," he said.
"We are faced with this predicament, where our tangaroa that we have prayed for and asked for protection for, to save it from the pollution that's going to occur from the sediment plume by TTR, it's the mighty dollar being heard, we are only the poor people."
"When you look at it [the decision], 50 per cent said no, there were two against two, the chairman had the casting vote. The status quo was that it was defeated two years ago, he should have stuck with the status quo and be supporting those against the seabed mining."
Chris Wilkes of Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) said he felt betrayed by the decision.
"The amount of destruction the EPA has approved is unprecedented really. To see the EPA this morning acknowledge the adverse effects on this community, that makes it a real blow. They're favouring a corporation over a community, which is not the way New Zealand should be going."
"KASM will definitely be appealing, we'll support anything Ngati Ruanui wants to do but we'll definitely have our own appeal. I'd encourage individual submitters to appeal also, and that will buy us a bit more time to organise ourselves. The fight's not over but it's very disappointing that even with the division in the EPA they still managed to push it through."
The fact the decision-making committee was divided indicated there was a large amount of uncertainty, he said.
"They have to err on the side of caution, and deny if there's uncertainty, and they haven't followed their own rules on that. In my opinion there's solid ground for appeal right there."
Students at Patea Area School expressed their fears for the future of their beach and the sea.
"We feel real sadness, very, very gutted," Amelia Anderson, 17, said.
"It's affecting our generation, we're going to be the ones having to clean it all up and fix everything," Maruata Ngarewa-Cribb, 15, said.
"It takes it away from our summers and weekends, we spend our time at the beach swimming and surfing, it's our lifestyle and it's being taken away," Charlotte Stark, 14, said.
"I'm absolutely devastated. I wish I was 18 and could could vote," Misaydeze Eru, 11, said.
Last year a 6000-signature petition was presented to parliament by KASM and Ngati Ruanui calling for a moratorium on seabed mining.
The final decision released by the EPA today was split 2:2 between the four members of the decision making committee, with chairman Alick Shaw, making the casting vote to approve the application.
The company's application for consent covered an area of 66 square kilometres between 22km and 36km off the west coast of South Taranaki within New Zealand's exclusive economic zone.
- Taranaki Daily News