In 2013, Trans-Tasman Resources applied to mine ironsand off the coast of Patea.

The application came with brash but vague promises of jobs and economic prosperity.

It was an untried method of extraction from the seabed and even the so-called experts seemed to be in a guessing game when it came to the impacts of such an operation.

The Environmental Protection Authority declined the application, citing "uncertainty around the scope and significance of the potential adverse environmental effects".


The authority said it was not satisfied the life-supporting capacity of the environment would be safeguarded, or that adverse effects could be avoided, remedied or mitigated.

Now TTR has returned with a fresh application, and one has to ask: "Has anything really changed from four years ago?"

Once again, the experts have lined up and, once again, they have struggled to give a definitive answer as to what the impacts on the ocean will be over the 35 years of the proposed mining operation - and beyond.

TTR clearly hasn't proved its case because if it had, the Environmental Protection Authority - which planned to finish the hearing on March 31 and give its verdict within 20 days - would have approved it by now.

Instead, the authority is asking the company to come up with more persuasive evidence - which is another way of saying it has failed to win the argument.

The authority's credibility is starting to look vulnerable - after all, it ruled the application "complete" last September.

The extension of the hearing to May 31 and the presentation of new information may suit the deeper pockets of TTR but is hard on opponents of the application who have already been severely stretched finding the time, money and resources to deliver their counter arguments. Now they have to go to the well again.

And even with new information, will the authority members be able to say, hand on heart, that the life-supporting capacity of the environment will be safeguarded, and that adverse effects can be avoided, remedied or mitigated?

I doubt it.