Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

'Too late' for Govt to vote on saving seabed

Exploration permits already issued to miners.

Opponents of seabed mining say the Government's vote against international protection is a short-sighted approach. Photo / APN
Opponents of seabed mining say the Government's vote against international protection is a short-sighted approach. Photo / APN

The Government says it was "too late" to vote to protect deep ocean habitats from the threat of seabed mining at the world's largest conservation congress because it had already issued prospecting and exploration permits.

New Zealand was one of a handful of nations at the International Union for Conservation of Nature's World Conservation Congress to oppose a motion which sought a broad range of conservation measures to protect three types of deep ocean habitat from the effects of mining.

The Government has since revealed the permits it had issued which prevented it from voting related to protected areas around the Chatham Rise, stretching 1000km off the Canterbury coast.

In response to a December question from Green MP Gareth Hughes, then Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson said though the Government was "supportive in principle" of efforts to protect deep-sea communities, the motion went beyond current policy on development of seabed minerals, which was to "facilitate sustainable growth and maximise revenue potential within environmental limits".

It was too late to consider many of the strategic measures called for in the motion as permits had already been issued.

Mr Hughes said the "no" vote put New Zealand behind other countries in marine conservation and risked the country's clean green brand.

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining president Phil McCabe called the vote "just another example of their short-sighted approach ... it's very upsetting". About 80 per cent of a Chatham Rock Phosphate Ltd project zone lay in a Benthic Protected Area closed to bottom trawling since 2007.

- NZ Herald

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