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‘Leave sea at peace’ plea to mine company

Trans-Tasman Resources has come face to face with two South Taranaki iwi vehemently opposed to seabed mining.

The landmark hearing, run by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), has been under way in Wellington since early March, but yesterday submitters were heard in the affected region.

The hearing is the first to be heard under new Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) legislation, and the judgment by the five-strong panel would set a precedent for future seabed mining applications.

TTR was challenged from the minute they set foot on Pariroa Marae, near Patea.

During the powhiri, Archie Hurunui, who spoke for Ngati Ruanui and Nga Rauru, made it clear what he thought of the proposal.

“No. No. No,” he said.

“Leave the sea at peace.”

And there was no let up inside the marae. Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui Trust spearheaded the push with a three-pronged attack targeting flaws in the company’s consultation process and gaps in the proposal.

Trust chief executive Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said TTR’s consultation was nothing short of poor and they had overpromised and under-delivered.

Ngarewa-Packer said TTR had not provided any certainty of the cumulative damage or shown they could deal with the long-term environmental impact.

“It would be remiss of me not to state that TTR have poor consultation.”

If given the green light the operation would cover an area of 65.76 square kilometres, near the Kupe oil rig.

TTR proposes to extract up to 50 million tonnes of sediment per year and process it aboard a floating processing storage and offloading vessel. About 5 million tonnes of iron ore concentrate would then be exported.

Ngarewa-Packer said every time they had asked for specific data they had only received a broad-scope reply designed to “placate”.

“This is unprecedented.

“How the hell are you guys going to put conditions around this?

“Because we can’t figure out how to do it and we have spent hours, and days, and nights, and weekends trying to do it.”

Ngarewa-Packer also took exception to two of the iwi submitters being called non-expert witnesses.

She said with 46 oil wells, the largest earth-based dam and the Fonterra outfall in their backyard they were well and truly experts.

“What we have been able to do is eyeball some of the best practising extractors in the country and some of the worst. We’ve been able to then use our neutral advantage to give the Crown advice to then get to know the sector.”

Nga Marae o Nga Rauru Kiitahi kaumatua Turama Hawira said the proposal transgressed customary tribal laws and the proposal was detrimental to all people of New Zealand no matter their race, creed or colour.

Another submitter, Karanga Morgan, challenged the EPA to do the right thing.

“You owe it to successive generations to reconcile this situation and to design a stronger future.”

The hearing continues today.