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Victory for the ocean: Court rules protecting the environment is a bottom line

Updated: Dec 15, 2021


KASM and Greenpeace press release

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) and Greenpeace today hailed the decision by the New Zealand Court of Appeal denying Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) permission to mine the South Taranaki Bight as a victory for the oceans.

The Court of Appeal confirmed today that the proposed seabed mining operation that would dredge a 66 square kilometre section of the seabed off the coast of Patea for ironsands, does not meet numerous environmental and Treaty of Waitangi principles and therefore could not go ahead.

A blue whale feeds in the South Taranaki Bight (Photo: Oregon State University)

“This sends a powerful message that New Zealand waters are not open for pillage by seabed miners. We doubt very much that any future investor would now have the appetite for throwing money at what is clearly a lost cause,” said Cindy Baxter, chairperson of Kiwis Against Seabed Mining.
“This three-year process has been a long, drawn-out battle, underlining the need for a ban on seabed mining. This is the third New Zealand application and again the seabed miners have lost, at enormous expense to local communities, iwi, environmental groups and industry,” she said.

Jessica Desmond, oceans campaigner at Greenpeace, says now is not the time for further exploiting our oceans.

“We have to step back and recognise that seabed mining is simply too destructive to go ahead. We don’t know enough about our fragile marine environment and what mining could do – but the science shows the impacts would be negative,” she says.
“This particular mining operation would put endangered Hector’s dolphins, blue whales, seabirds, and coral life at risk. It’s a risk we cannot afford.
“Our oceans perform a myriad of vital services to humanity – from feeding communities to providing breakthroughs in medical science. It is high time we protected them from harmful activities.
“This seabed mine would have set a very bad precedent for other companies waiting in the wings. Today’s decision will be felt across the Pacific where communities are fighting other similarly damaging huge seabed mining projects.”

Just last month, the UK Government committed to not sponsor nor support the issuing of any exploitation licences for deep sea mining projects until there is sufficient scientific evidence about the potential impact on deep sea ecosystems. They also want to see strong and enforceable environmental standards in place before any mining could go ahead.

Prominent environmentalist Sir David Attenborough has also warned of potential irreversible harm that could be done through seabed mining.

Today’s decision upholds a High Court decision last year that quashed the EPA consent granted to TTR.

The Appeal Court decision also upheld several important points of law the groups had cross-appealed on, as the High Court had rejected these arguments.

These included: including the relevance of international law, the meaning of the legislation regulating New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone, its object and purpose, the precautionary principle, the relevance of the Resource Management Act regime, and a financial bond to ensure future environmental harms can be addressed.

Other possible seabed mining bids could come from companies holding either mining or exploration permits off New Plymouth, Waihi Beach, and the Chatham Rise – where Chatham Rock Phosphate has already failed in its first attempt, and has been telling investors it is waiting for this decision to be resolved before it reapplies.

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