Gareth Hughes MP| NZ Greens | 19 September, 2016
“Seabed mining should be considered a novel experimental activity”
Today at Parliament, I accepted a petition signed by more than 6,000 people calling for a moratorium on seabed mining. This is also the day Trans-Tasman Resources’ (TTR) second application attempt to mine the seabed of the South Taranaki Bight opens for the twenty days of submissions period under the Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) rules.
It was fantastic to see the petition organised from Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM), who have led the successful campaigns that saw TTR’s first application and Chatham Rock Phosphate’s seabed mining applications declined by the EPA. Three busloads of local iwi Ngāti Ruanui also travelled down from Patea for the event and they say consultation with TTR has been flawed. This company is applying for consent to suck up 50 million tonnes of seabed, extract the iron ore and dump 45 million tonnes of sediment back.
This is in the feeding ground of the world’s largest whale and the habitat for the world’s smallest and rarest dolphin so it’s no surprise there’s huge opposition. Last time TTR tried, only 8 of the of the 4800 submissions to the EPA supported the mining.
Seabed mining is a controversial new activity. The two applications to date were rejected by the EPA because of environmental impacts and scientific uncertainties. One thing that has stuck in my head from the last process was the Rumsfeldian quote ‘the uncertainties around the uncertainties is uncertain’. This is an entirely new field, apart from a little shallow water diamond mining. Seabed mining should be considered a novel experimental activity.
Both Australia’s Northern Territory and Namibia, who have grappled with seabed mining, have instigated moratoria. I support KASM’s call for the Government to place a moratorium on the activity here. We have the fourth largest Exclusive Economic Zone in the world and with huge scientific uncertainties surrounding seabed mining, it’s responsible to wait and to learn more before risking our marine ecosystem and fisheries. I’d contend it’s better for the companies interested in undertaking seabed mining too, as consent applications can cost millions of dollars, so a delay and more research benefits everyone.
The petition will be referred to a select committee to consider and with only twenty days to make a submission on TTR’s application, I hope you can make one.