Councillor against seabed mining

By Laurel Stowell

1 comment
Robert Northcott had just been trying to refloat a stranded orca whale when this photograph was taken in March. PHOTO/ FILE
Robert Northcott had just been trying to refloat a stranded orca whale when this photograph was taken in March. PHOTO/ FILE

South Taranaki District Council has made a neutral submission on proposed seabed mining off the coast of Patea - but Patea Ward councillor Robert Northcott did not sign it.

Hawera Ward councillor Kirsty Bourke didn't sign either. Both are against the mining.

Mr Northcott said he had tried to look at both sides of the proposal, but concluded sucking up iron sand and then returning 90 per cent of the material to the seabed was too risky and experimental.

He knows the applicant, Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR), has done modelling about the effect of any sediment plume created when sand is returned to the seabed. But he's not convinced the modelling is right.

Mr Northcott gets out in a boat in the South Taranaki Bight to fish. He's also dived some of its inshore reefs. He knows they are not in the area to be mined, but doesn't want to put them at risk from any flow-on effects.

He's seen albatross, seals, dolphins and orca out there - so many species and so much colour.

"What we have out there is absolutely pristine and it needs to be protected. Why would you want to put that in jeopardy for 20 pieces of silver?" he said.

He has the impression the majority of his constituents are against the proposal, especially iwi.

He said a major mining operaton could be hard to stop, once it got consent and got started.

"I know through working on council stuff that you can set conditions on people but they're very difficult to police and maintain."

Most of the economic gain will go overseas, he said, and he's sceptical about the 700 local jobs promised.

He also has concerns about the amount of heavy fuel oil that would be burned to keep the mining operation running day and night. That would add to climate change, he said.

"We are at a tipping point with global warming. At some point we are going to have to make some pretty big decisions."

++ Bianca Mitchell has organised an art auction in Patea on Friday October 14, to raise funds to fight the mining proposal. More than 20 artists have donated their work, and local businesses and organisations have provided sponsorship. It's at Patea's Old Folks Association Hall, and the doors open at 6.30pm.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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