Iwi ‘sounds alarm bells’ as seabed mining company withdraws consent application

A mining company has withdrawn from an evironmental hearing considering its application to mine the seabed off the South Taranaki coast but iwi remain wary.

Trans-Tasman Resources Ltd (TTRL) withdrew its Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) application for consent on Thursday.

However, Ngāti Ruanui, which has fought the proposal, suspects it is merely a “cynical move” by TTRL to avoid public scrutiny with the company likely waiting for the government’s new fast-track legislation.

Tumu whakaae, Haimona Maruera, was clear on the matter.

“We are concerned that the application withdrawal is a cynical move by Trans-Tasman Resources to avoid iwi and community scrutiny of a mining operation that was under significant pressure from environmental witness[es] and experts at the hearing by the Environmental Protection Authority in Hawera two weeks ago,” Maruera said Thursday on Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Ruanui’s Facebook account.

“With more hearings scheduled in the next three months the writing was already on the wall for this doomed application.”

Maruera said the fast track legislation rings “alarm bells” for the iwi as a “backdoor” method to obtain mining consent.

“Ngati Ruanui welcomes the decision by Trans-Tasman Resources Limited to withdraw their seabed mining application. However, the Iwi sounds alarm bells that proposed Fast Track Consenting legislation may be used as a backdoor to gain consent for the mining operation.”

TTRL boss Alan Eggers told Stuff the company does still intend to carry on with its mining project despite withdrawing the consent application as they have “a lot invested in it”.

“We will keep on with what we are doing. The EPA process was to have our marine and discharge consents approved,” he said.

“The Fast Track legislation is not finalised yet, it’s still in draft form, and we don’t know if it would be appropriate for this application.

“We’ll just be getting on with our business.”

Maruera said Ngāti Ruanui have “only just begun” their fight.

“Ngati Ruanui intends to use every available course of action both directly and legally should fast track consenting be used for seabed mining in the South Taranaki Bight. We have only just begun.

“The Government needs to stand up and do the right thing and ensure seabed mining never sees the light of day.”