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Don’t trust the seabed miners: KASM submission on Fast-Track bill

by Cindy Baxter, KASM Chairperson

The government’s fast-track approvals bill avoids public scrutiny, sound science and public process, and treats decades of legislation, learning and science with contempt and, in the case of seabed mining, would not catch out exaggerated claims of safety, says our full submission.

We are calling for the government to withdraw the bill.

Read the KASM submission here

We point out that the two wannabe seabed mining companies seeking fast-track approvals have had a track record of exaggeration and minimising potential impacts on the ocean. 

We've seen these companies, time and time again, making unsubstantiated claims to investors, and in the media, who run them uncontested. Our experience has shown that outside experts have shone much-needed light on potential issues of this highly experimental industry.

With the Bill’s proposed prohibition on public consultation, decision makers will be kept in the dark as to the real impact.

Recent examples of seabed mining company exaggeration include: 

  • Manuka Resources (the Australian owner of Trans Tasman Resources), in a February 2022 investor presentation told Australian investors that seabed mining would have “No impact on fish, whales or dolphins”, contrary to evidence brought by KASM from the world’s expert on the South Taranaki Bight’s blue whales, who has published ten peer-reviewed papers about the mammals. In refusing consent in 2014, the EPA advised TTR to undertake marine mammal surveys in the Bight, but TTR still has not done so ten years later.

  • In November 2023 the company told investors the Supreme Court had ruled “in support of project”, when in fact the Supreme Court had upheld the previous two courts’ quashing of the entire consent, and sent TTR back to the EPA to prove its new test of “no material harm.” This was an outright lie.

  • On 28 March 2024, when announcing to the ASX the company was withdrawing from the EPA hearing process Manuka Resources told investors it had “EPA environmental consents and conditions to operate approved in 2017”, making no mention of the fact these consents had been quashed by three courts and that TTR no longer holds any such consent at all. 

Equally, Chatham Rock Phosphate has continually misled shareholders in the Toronto stock exchange where it’s registered, claiming it “owned” a “$70m resource” out on the Chatham Rise without mentioning the fact it had been refused a consent to actually mine that resource.  "Ministers who are the decisionmakers under the Bill will have considerable legal and political exposure. Companies who apply under the Bill risk their consents being overturned through judicial review, face considerable hurdles given the loss of a public mandate to operate and risk having their consents altered or cancelled when the true effects become known or when a future government which values its environment is in place."

These are the cowboys that Ministers would have to deal with. And without input from scientific experts brought by the likes of KASM, these extremely risky and experimental projects could get approval.

Other excerpts from our submission:  

  • "Everyone will be the loser: New Zealand as a whole, local communities which suffer, our environment which is already under threat and even the proponents, as there will be no social licence, the public anger will be profound, and the consents granted will not be safe.”

  • “The bill would lead to breaches of New Zealand’s Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), including the CPTTP, CER and the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement (ANZCERTA) and its Protocol on Investment, the NZ-European Union FTA and the New Zealand - United Kingdom FTA including in its failings in environmental protection and public participation."

  • “Rather than being about making decisions faster, more efficient or more effective, this Bill will result in poor decision making, poor and inadequate science, exclusion of public participation, risky development and will erode significant rights and values that are foundational to who we are as a country.”

But overall, the bill will not achieve its purpose due to the numerous procedural issues found in this legislation. 

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