There's a saying about making sure you take time to acknowledge the little victories - but sometimes we get to celebrate the big wins as well.

This week, the parties that appealed the Environmental Protection Authority's decision to grant seabed mining consents off the coast of Patea won that battle - and maybe the war, too.

It's the second time Trans-Tasman Resources have hit a brick wall of legal loss, built on huge community opposition.

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The appellants were a mix of iwi, conservation groups and fishing interests, backed by everyday people.

Last year, I took part in a protest against seabed mining down at Castlecliff Beach and we promised we would be back to celebrate should we be successful - so watch this space for a chance to come together and enjoy the moment.

Trans-Tasman may still appeal - as is their right - but they could very well be getting sick of throwing good money after bad.

I'm no lawyer, but reading the judge's decision, it seems the fundamental nature of their adaptive management approach was flawed. That means a lot of change needed, given the lack of experience with this form of mining anywhere in the world.

A reminder of what's been saved - it was underwater open cast mining over an area of 66sq km, digging up 50 million tonnes of sea floor every year - for 35 years.

That would have destroyed any marine life there, potentially creating a sediment plume and impacting on the food chain.

I'm still keen to see a marine mammal sanctuary set up in the South Taranaki Bight to protect our whales and dolphins. It would make it clear where we see our future - eco-tourism and a sustainable fishery - opportunities that don't cost the earth.

It's been an exhausting number of years for the people actively involved in the campaign to protect our seabed, many of whom are volunteers.


But while the decision is one made in a court of law, not popular opinion, the funds that supported this case came from all over. It may not have happened without the massive groundswell.

I hope this breather prompts passionate people to take a moment for themselves - some self-care so we're ready for the next big environmental battle.

I also hope this decision is part of a bigger shift in direction - a realignment of the course we've been on, or at least taking the foot off the accelerator of destructive extraction.

Earlier this year, the University of Pennsylvania published research in the journal Science that showed the tipping point to create a new social norm - it's 25 per cent.

That's the percentage of a social group or community that will create the momentum to drive something new before everyone will follow suit.

We might be well over 25 per cent when it comes to seabed mining. I think we're also there when it comes to mining on conservation land.

This research shows the value of sticking at something, even when you're not in a majority. It appears you don't have to have all the votes to get significant social shifts happening - 25 per cent is enough.

So feed your optimism and look after yourself - you may be closer to the magical 25 per cent than you think.

Plus there's inherent value in practising optimism and appreciation for the positives in life in their own right. Professor Martin Seligman and his model of wellbeing theory, another University of Pennsylvania (coincidental) connection, is worth a look.

Let's take a breather and feel gratitude for this win - it has been worth it.

A quote from Helen Keller, the US author who wrote of her life being blind and deaf, sums it up: "Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence."

■Nicola Patrick is a Horizons regional councillor, works for Te Kaahui o Rauru, and is part of a new social enterprise hub, Thrive Whanganui. A mother of two boys, she has a science degree and is a Green Party member