Trans-Tasman Resources' ("TTR") application for a marine consent application to mine iron sands offshore in the South Taranaki Bight is heading towards a hearing, which could be hard fought in light of the 99.5 percent opposition rate in the submissions to the proposal.

As you may recall from our previous newsletter, this proposal is the first to go to hearing under the new Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012, administered by the Environmental Protection Authority.  TTR claims that the proposal to mine iron sands approximately 30 kilometres offshore will glean approximately five million tonnes of concentrate ore per year for export, create 250 new jobs, contribute approximately $302 million to GDP and generate tax and royalties of approximately $54 million.

While there is conditional support from local and central government agencies, and divided opinion in the fishing industry, only 11 of the 4,702 submissions on the proposal favoured the scheme.  However, most submissions in opposition were from private individuals, with many using an online form supplied by Kiwis Against Seabed Mining.  Many submissions raise concerns about the proposals' impact on marine life (including marine mammals), coastal erosion, and surf breaks. 

Māori opposition to the proposal is also strong, along with opposition from the Environmental Defence Society and Environment and Conservation Organisation of Aotearoa.  With regard to the fishing industry, the Federation of Commercial Fishers and Talleys oppose the application, while Sanford and Te Ohu Kaimoana have expressed conditional support for the proposal.

The Taranaki Regional and South Taranaki District Councils also lodged submissions, citing economic issues, risk assessment and ecological impact as issues of concern, while the Ministry for Primary Industries and Department of Conservation lodged submissions citing a large range of other concerns. 

Other issues raised were economic benefits to New Zealand considering the current mining royalty rates and concerns about experimental facets of the proposal.

Submitters' evidence was due on 24 February 2014.  The hearing is expected to start in Wellington on 10 March 2014 and could take up to three months.