The New Zealand Government’s decision to abstain from voting in support of a deep sea mining moratorium at the IUCN World Conservation Congress has been met with sharp criticism from Greenpeace Aotearoa.
It was revealed this week that New Zealand, which is represented at the IUCN World Conservation Congress by the Department of Conservation (DOC), abstained from voting whilst the motion received overwhelming support from other countries including the Pacific island nation of Tonga.
Greenpeace Aotearoa seabed mining campaigner James Hita said the New Zealand Government continues to fall behind the rest of the world in preserving our oceans.
"It’s incredibly disappointing to see the New Zealand Government opt out of supporting the deep sea mining moratorium. Deep sea mining is one of the greatest threats our oceans face at the moment, especially in the Pacific. We don’t have time anymore to simply abstain from voting.
"New Zealander and our Pacific cousins need New Zealand’s government to be on the right side of history on deep sea mining. Abstaining from voting - is not. Greenpeace Aotearoa wants the Government to take a leadership position on deep sea mining by supporting the moratorium especially when we are a Pacific country," says Hita.
Delegates at this year’s global conservation summit also voted overwhelmingly for the reform of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the UN-mandated body tasked with regulating this activity.
Eighty-one governments and government agencies attending the IUCN World Conservation Congress voted in favor of the moratorium, laid out in Motion 69, while 18 voted against and 28 abstained. Around 577 NGOs and civil society organisations also voted in favor, while only 32 voted against and 35 abstained.
Other countries who abstained from voting included the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States of America, Australia and France.
"The relevance of the moratorium’s support is even more important following the South Pacific nation of Nauru’s decision to trigger the "two-year rule" only months ago," says Hita.
The two year rule requires the ISA to allow the nation to begin mining in two years’ time under whatever regulations have been established by then.
Nauru sponsors a subsidiary of a Canadian company previously known as ‘DeepGreen’. Recently, DeepGreen formally merged with Sustainable Opportunities Acquisition Corporation to form The Metals Company, which is valued at $2.9 billion.
Activists aboard Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior confronted a ship chartered by DeepGreen in the Pacific this year, displaying banners reading "Stop Deep Sea Mining" and painting "RISK" on the side of the vessel.
If deep sea mining is allowed to progress forward in two years time, there could be an accelerated increase of activity in the region as other countries and companies will seek to obtain licenses.
Greenpeace Aotearoa is also calling on the NZ Govt to ban all seabed mining and a supporting petition has been signed by more than 22,000.
"The New Zealand Government failed to step up and show support but the overall vote sends a clear and powerful message to the International Seabed Authority that there is no global support to mine the deep sea," says Hita.