Parties ponder new seabed mining information

By Laurel Stowell

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Haimona Maruera, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, Graham Young and Shi-Han Ngarewa were at Pariroa Pa for the iron-sand mining hearing in 2014. PHOTO/ FILE
Haimona Maruera, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, Graham Young and Shi-Han Ngarewa were at Pariroa Pa for the iron-sand mining hearing in 2014. PHOTO/ FILE

Trans-Tasman Resources' application to mine the South Taranaki seabed is inconsistent about the number of jobs it will create, Ngāti Ruanui environmental policy analyst Maria Cashmore says.

The company has applied to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for marine consent and marine discharge consent to mine iron-sand from about 65 square kilometres of seabed 22-36km off the Patea coast.

Ms Cashmore has been analysing parts of the Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) application that were redacted (blacked out) - until the Environment Court ruled they must be made public. The application is 2195 pages and about a quarter of them were redacted.

At one point in the application TTR says 1666 jobs will be created. Ms Cashmore isn't sure where that figure came from.

The EPA asked TTR for more information on jobs and economic impact. The information supplied then said there would be 236 jobs in New Zealand, with 30 overseas.

Of those 61 would be in South Taranaki/Whanganui.

No figure was given for South Taranaki on its own, which concerned Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui chairman Haimona Maruera.

"There is no way to tell how many jobs, if any, will be created here. And that should be a major concern for all of us, as it will be the South Taranaki coastline and seabed that suffers the most," he said.

A TTR spokeperson responded, saying the 236 jobs were direct employment by TTR. The rest that made up the 1666 were indirect jobs - with supporting industries - and induced jobs such as providing food and accommodation for workers.

Ngati Ruanui was also angry to find South Taranaki CEO Craig Stevenson had commended TTR's "mythbusting" advertisements in local papers, and recommended more of them. Kaiarataki Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said an email exchange showed council senior management's support for an enterprise rejected by a broad cross-section of ratepayers.

But Mr Stevenson said it was important for a local authority to engage with any organisation, whether it agreed with it or not.

"My comment was a simple response to a question from TTR about their advert and my only interest was that South Taranaki residents were provided with as much information as possible from both sides of the argument," he said.

Another aspect that concerns Ms Cashmore is the way sediment tests were done in a laboratory, under controlled conditions.

She said it didn't take into account what could happen in the sea, with tides and seasonal changes.

The TTR spokesperson said the company stood by the scientific reports it has had from independent experts.

Submissions on the applications close on December 12, and about 8000 have been made so far.

Whanganui and South Taranaki district councils and Taranaki Regional Council have all made neutral submissions.

A spokeswoman for the Whanganui council said the neutrality of its submission balances foreseeable economic growth with community feedback.

South Taranaki's submission said community views ranged from outright opposition to cautious support.

The council wanted to ensure mining didn't increase coastal erosion or affect kaimoana. If mining went ahead it asked for at least $100,000 donated to the community every year for the life of the project, and wanted any heliport built to be within the district.

Taranaki Regional Council's submission provided information to the EPA committee that will decide whether to approve the applications.

It said uncertainty about long term effects of sediment was one key issue. Another was how the mining would be regulated, because it falls within the council's area of responsibility.

Because it made a submission it can be heard at hearings on the application. The Conservation Department has not made a submission and cannot be heard.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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