Young people in Patea were eager to have their say after hearing that consent has been given for ironsand mining in the South Taranaki Bight.

"The sad thing is that it is going to affect us for a long time," said 15-year-old Maruata Ngarewa. "It is our generation who will have to deal with it in the long term."

"It's disappointing," said 11-year-old Tileah Wilkes. "I wish I was 18 so I could vote for a government that would stop it from happening."

The young people joined Ngati Ruanui and opposition group representatives to watch the live feed of Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) chief executive Allan Freeth delivering the announcement in Wellington.


The decision-making committee, appointed by the board of the EPA to decide a marine consent application by Trans-Tasman Resources Ltd (TTR), has granted consent, subject to conditions, for the company to mine ironsand off the South Taranaki Bight.

The vote was equally split with committee chairman Alick Shaw and Dr Kevin Thompson voting to grant consent while deputy chairman Sharon McGarry and Gerry Te Kapa Coates voted to refuse consent.

The dissenters cited concerns over localised adverse environmental effects and tangata whenua existing interests.

In accordance with the procedures adopted before the hearing began, the decision to grant consent, subject to conditions, was determined on the casting vote of Mr Shaw as chairman.

Mr Freeth said the application had been among the most challenging and complex the EPA had ever dealt with.

There would be "significant" impacts on marine mammals, fish, and creatures that lived on the sea floor. That included a sediment plume that could spread three kilometres, and would reduce light, and possibly smother marine creatures.

"The impact on benthic [sea floor] life within the mining site, while being expected to be a 100 per cent loss in the short term, is expected to be temporary in the view of the majority [committee] decision," Mr Freeth said.

"Conditions have been imposed to monitor this recovery, and take steps to ensure it occurs over the medium to long term.


"While marine mammals may be affected by the sediment plume, the greater potential impacts will arise from noise produced by the mining vessels.

"Noise at a level likely to cause behavioural impacts will extend for some considerable distance in all directions."

Mr Freeth said commercial, recreational and customary fishing may also be affected, as fish were likely to avoid the area.

"I acknowledge the decision outcome is likely to be a difficult one for all involved. The fact that the [committee] members disagreed reflects the complexity of the issue."

Ngati Ruanui kaumatua Nigel Nuku said he sees the disagreement between committee members as a win.

"I reckon we've done well," he said. "The committee is split and we will appeal the decision and drive a further wedge between the members."


Ngati Ruanui kaiarataki Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said the decision was not unexpected and the iwi is prepared to fight the decision.

"The decision is a huge disservice to our community," she said. "We are fighters and we will be lodging an appeal."

Christine Corrigan embraces Patea Area School principal Nicola Ngarewa as Debbie Ngarewa-Packer offers support. Photo By Stuart Munro
Christine Corrigan embraces Patea Area School principal Nicola Ngarewa as Debbie Ngarewa-Packer offers support. Photo By Stuart Munro

Chris Wilkes of Kiwis Against Mining (KASM) said his organisation will also be lodging an appeal and Christine Corrigan of the Patea Boat Club will also be opposing the decision which she said is "absolutely gutting"..

The consent includes a pre-commencement monitoring plan which must collect two years' worth of data before mining commences.

Another condition of the consent is that TTR consult with tangata whenua.

"We don't want them here so we're not going to work with them," said Ms Ngarewa-Packer.


Whanganui Green Party candidate Nicola Patrick said the decision has been made without enough concern for the future.

"We need to support participation by youth in decision making and lowering the voting age could be the key. The casting vote has been used inappropriately in my view.

"The Exclusive Economic Zone Act puts the precautionary principle front and centre but this decision hasn't done that."

TTR executive chairman Alan J. Eggers said the company presented a comprehensive evaluation of the potential environmental effects.

"It should be acknowledged that TTR has undertaken extensive marine environmental work.

"As a result of TTR's research the STB is now regarded as the most studied and documented area of ocean floor and marine environment around New Zealand."


Mr Eggers said the operation will introduce new jobs, a range of professions and skills, training facilities and technology along with substantial economic benefits.