Mining company Trans-Tasman Resources came in for a pasting at a hearing to decide whether it can mine ironsand from the South Taranaki seabed.

It had no chance to defend its actions. The format of the Environmental Protection Authority hearing allowed for questions from the agency's five-member decision-making committee but no input from the applicant.

Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) wants marine consent to mine ironsand from 66 square kilometres of seabed 22-35km offshore from Patea.

Yesterday's hearing was held at Ngati Ruanui's Pariroa Marae, near Kakaramea.


It began with a large powhiri before members of the coastal tribes present crowded into the Taiporohenui meeting house to listen.

First up was host iwi, Ngati Ruanui. It strongly opposed both the application and the process used to decide it.

Chief executive Debbie Ngarewa-Packer took exception to its speakers being labelled "non-expert witnesses".

She said the tribe had 50 years' experience of dealing with resource extraction companies. It knew what was best practice, and TTR wasn't using it.

There were 46 oil wells within Ngati Ruanui's area, and it had managed to stop fracking (hydraulic fracturing) there. It has an environment wing, managed by former South Taranaki District Council officer Graham Young, and it advised MPs Nick Smith and Amy Adams when the legislation the hearing is held under was written.

"We claim our legacy as environmental specialists. There have been insults, and we have borne them," Ms Ngarewa-Packer said.

The process was too rushed, and TTR's cultural impact assessment was done by a non-Maori who was from outside the area. It was inadequate, the iwi said, and therefore the application was incomplete.

The company should also have to apply for resource consent, because the mining would have effects closer to shore than the 12 nautical mile limit.


Ngati Ruanui speakers also slammed TTR for its poor consultation, failure to answer factual questions and late changes to proposed mining methods.

"We have asked for scientific data. They came back with a broad scope, placating media response - not the real answers we were looking for."

The company's insistence that environmental damage would be little more than minor was therefore not credible, it had nothing to say about cumulative damage and had not proved it had enough money behind it to remedy any damage that may be caused.

It had talked of a trust to benefit local people, but had made no firm commitment.

A sediment plume caused by the mining was a major concern. One consultant predicted it would cause "brown streaks in the water about half the time" at Kai Iwi, Wanganui's most popular beach.

The plume could also downgrade the North and South Traps, reefs offshore from Patea that are famous for their sea life.

The committee's decision would be a precedent setter, and it needed to be extra cautious, Ms Ngarewa-Packer said.

She didn't envy the five who had to make it.

"How the hell are you guys going to monitor it? We can't figure out how you can do it."

Speakers from Nga Rauru's 12 marae followed, and they also opposed the application. They were to be followed by representatives of Maori fisheries interests.

The hearing moves to Wanganui today - at 1.30pm or possibly later, in the Wanganui District Council building on Guyton St. Members of the public may attend.