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Watch NZH Local Focus: DOC face backlash. We won't be engaging with them!

By Sieska Verdonk

The first time Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) applied for a permit to conduct seabed mining off the coast of South Taranaki, the Department of Conservation made a submission against the proposal.

But this time they haven't, and that's angered local Iwi - Ngāti Ruanui.

"Unfortunately this type of decision is made down in Wellington, by those officials that don't come out and talk to us, that have absolutely no affinity and a total disregard for the treaty, and for us as a post settled iwi. Our chair has made it known to the Minister that we won't be engaging with them," says Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, Kaiarataki Te Runanga o Ngāti Ruanui

Local Maori are not alone in their dismay. Lobby group Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) says it is being left to do a job that should be done by DOC.

"Unfortunately, the failings of our government and the failings of the Department of Conservation especially, have led us to this point where we have to actually go out and fight off these corporations, it's just really sad," says KASM Taranaki spokesman Chris Wilkes.

DOC refused repeated requests by Local Focus for an on-camera interview. It did, however, issue a statement saying it is satisfied with TTR's changes to the application.

It says it does not believe there will be significant threats to the environment - because of reduced sedimentation, more certain conditions, and changes to the plume model.

"Effectively what they have told everyone, Joe Public and Iwi through the media, is that they actually support the application of TTR, despite tangata whenua being extremely opposed to it. It does show that DoC are probably taking more of a lean toward an economic agenda, and that's a total disregard for what it is that we as tangata whenua understand their kaitiaki role to be," says Ms Ngarewa-Packer

Ngāti Ruanui also accuses Trans-Tasman Resources of unethical behaviour. "I guess If you ask us how angry we are as an Iwi, as a community, we have been exposed to some of the most horrific bullying and unethical behaviour that we have ever seen."

In a statement TTR said it "refutes these claims". They say they have made every reasonable effort to correct misinformation presented in the media and to engage with all stakeholders about the project.

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- NZ Herald

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