Fishing Industry seeks cautionary approach to
iron sand mining

Te Ohu Kaimoana, iwi and fishing industry groups were some of the organisations calling for “caution” from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in its consideration of a proposal to mine iron sand deposits from the South Taranaki Bight.

Iron Sand

Trans-Tasman Resources Ltd (TTRL) is a privately-owned New Zealand company established in 2007 to explore and develop the North Island’s west coast iron sand deposits. Its goal is to develop an offshore, iron ore extraction industry. In 2013, the company applied for marine consents to extract iron sands in the South Taranaki Bight, off the west coast of the North Island. According to the website of TTRL, the application is for a project area of approximately 65.76 km2 off the coast of Patea, in water between 20 and 45 metres in depth. The area is inside New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) but outside of the 12-mile territorial limit.

Te Ohu Kaimoana, along with iwi and Fisheries Inshore New Zealand were among those who presented concerns to a decision-making committee of the EPA at hearings held at Pariroa Marae, Patea and in New Plymouth in early May. The EPA will issue its decision in June.

Our concern is the uncertainty around the potential effects of the TTRL operation on fisheries and, as a consequence, the Fisheries Settlement interests of iwi. As we have stated on numerous occasions, the Fisheries Settlement provides a property right to iwi, and the Crown has an obligation under the Treaty of Waitangi to protect those rights. Allowing a new user to potentially adversely affect the integrity of that existing property right is a serious matter.

In our presentation, put to the EPA by Te Ohu Kaimoana’s Manager Fisheries Leadership, Kirsty Woods, we urged caution and recommended that an adaptive management approach should be taken should the committee decide to approve the application. We believe such as approach should include thresholds and limits beyond which mining activity would have to cease.  TTRL needs to demonstrate that mining can be managed within those limits. We also recommended that a bond be paid up-front so that existing interests, including iwi, can be compensated for any adverse effects.

Further, we encouraged close monitoring of the mining activity and that iwi, Te Ohu Kaimoana and the commercial fishing sector should be involved in that monitoring. 

“When it comes to such a new activity, the full effects of which are relatively unknown, we believe that a degree of caution should be taken. It needs to be acknowledged that iwi have property rights and fishing interests through the Fisheries Settlement and that these must be protected, especially in the event of a mining mishap or through other adverse effects that might occur,” Te Ohu Kaimoana Chief Executive, Peter Douglas, said.

A copy of Te Ohu Kaimoana’s submission and presentation to the EPA can be found here.

Read our Guest Article by Debbie Packer, Ngati Ruanui CEO