Forest & Bird appealing seabed mining decision

Forest & Bird is lodging an appeal on the Environmental Protection Authority’s controversial decision to allow seabed mining in the habitat of critically endangered blue whales.

The EPA granted consent for Trans Tasman Resources Limited (TTRL) to mine iron sand in the South Taranaki Bight.

The area is home to more than 30 species of marine mammals, including some that are critically endangered, including blue whales and Māui’s dolphins. It is an important migratory corridor for humpback whales. Little blue penguins use the area, and the Patea Shoals are an important natural area closer to shore.

Forest & Bird’s Chief Executive Kevin Hague says, “The EEZ Act recognises that seabed mining could have significant impacts on the marine environment, and requires protection from such impacts. 

“We think the EPA’s decision to grant consent fails to protect the environment, and doesn’t meet the requirements of the EEZ Act.”

The EPA’s decision-making committee was split, with two of the four members dissenting, leading the chair to use his casting vote to decide the application.

The two committee members who dissented considered the noise impacts on marine mammals a key concern, and the information available extremely uncertain and inadequate.

“The committee members that would have declined mining consent believe that the environment is not protected in this decision,” says Mr Hague.

“We agree with their view that the information provided was inadequate, the impacts on marine mammals were not adequately understood, and the effect on the Patea Shoals is unacceptable.”
The mining area covers 65 square kilometres of seabed, more than three times the size of Kapiti Island. The operation would suck-up 8,000 tonnes of seabed every hour for 35 years, to a depth of 11 metres, and pump unused sediment back to the ocean floor.