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EPA seabed mining hearing laws undermining democracy

EPA seabed mining hearing laws undermining democracy

Press release, 9 April 2014

Rules around the EPA’s decision-making process on the country’s first seabed mining application under the new Exclusive Economic Zone Act are undemocratic and make it nearly impossible for adequate public input, Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) said today.

Echoing the sentiments expressed by the Environment Defence Society this morning, KASM Chairperson Phil McCabe said the entire process appears to have been set up to favour the applicant, Trans Tasman Resources (TTR), and to severely curtail public input.

The tight timeframes set up and adversarial environment where TTR lawyers are able to attend every hearing day, when the hearing runs from March to May, mean that it is virtually impossible for submitters to keep up.

TTR has applied for a marine license to mine a 65sqkm are of the seabed for black sand (ironsands), off the coast of South Taranaki. It is the first such application for offshore black sand mining and, if approved, is likely to create a precedent for other companies who have permits right up the North Island’s West Coast from Taranaki to Cape Reinga.

“We have struggled against a mountain of evidence from the company, with so little time to examine it in detail,” said McCabe.

“Normally, tiny, voluntary groups like ours would be entitled to get legal aid, but the Minister for the Environment, Amy Adams, has decided this won’t apply under this new legislation. This is in contrast to the up to $25m ‘innovation’ grant the Government has awarded the mining company,” he said.

“If you steal an ice cream and can’t pay for your lawyer, you get legal aid. But not if you’re trying to oppose a mining company that is about to rip up our seabed in an area where the critically endangered Maui’s dolphin and giant blue whales are found.”

“We are having to move heaven and earth to fundraise so we can try to keep our heads above water, but with these timeframes and the Government’s refusal to giving submitters legal aid to counter the subsidies given to the seabed miners, we feel we are drowning in paperwork and evidence.”

Of the 4850 submissions to the EPA on the application, 99.5% were opposed, with only eight submitters in support, with most of them related to the mining industry. Local Iwi and the fishing industry are also opposing the application.

The hearings are in Hamilton this week, owing to the huge concern from people in Raglan, a black sand beach. KASM will be presenting its submission on Thursday.


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