The Environment Court has ruled that all the information in an application to mine iron-sand from the South Taranaki seabed must be made public.
The oral decision of Judge Brian Dwyer and Commissioner Ian Buchanan was made public at 3pm on Tuesday, following a one-day hearing on Monday. The written decision is due by the end of the week.
Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) has applied to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for consents to suck up sand from the seabed between 22km and 36km offshore from Patea. The iron-rich particles would then be separated out and shipped to Asia, with the rest of the material returned to the seafloor.
The EPA-appointed decision making committee allowed parts of the application relating to sediment and its return to the seafloor to be redacted (blacked out). Anyone accessing them was to sign a confidentiality agreement, and not reveal the information to anyone else.
That decision was challenged in the Environment Court by Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM), Ngāti Ruanui and fisheries business Talley's Group.
The court decided the redaction of that information would prevent experts and the public getting a full understanding of the mining proposal, KASM chairman Phil McCabe said.
It said public interest in the proposal outweighed the need for commercial secrecy, and that any confidentiality restrictions should have been set by the EPA rather than by TTR.
Judge Dwyer gave TTR's lawyers a short time to decide whether to appeal the decision, and they decided they would not.
They were ready to release the information as soon as possible.
Mr McCabe was pleased with the decision.
"It means we can now get on with assessing the application in its entirety," he said.
KASM will now push for the public submission period to be extended - from a present deadline of November 14 - to allow people to assess the new information.
Judge Dwyer stopped short of asking the EPA to extend the submission period, but said there would be scope for that.