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Environmentalists plan ironsands cross-appeal

Kiwis Against Seabed Mining and Greenpeace New Zealand are heading back to court, saying a High Court judgment that quashed Trans-Tasman Resources’ consent to mine ironsand off the Taranaki coast upheld only one of a number of valid arguments.

The 35-year consent for the project to extract 50 million tonnes of seabed material a year was granted in August 2017 on the casting vote of the chair of a decision-making committee appointed by the Environmental Protection Authority. The consent included numerous conditions including a requirement for pre-mining monitoring.

However, conservation, fishing and iwi groups sought to stop the project. In August,  the High Court ruled the committee had been wrong to take an adaptive management approach when granting the discharge consents for the project in the Exclusive Economic Zone. It sent the issue back to the DMC for reconsideration. 

Last month TTR announced it was seeking to appeal the decision, arguing that the EPA had followed a legally correct approach. KASM and Greenpeace are seeking leave to cross-appeal.

"There were a number of points we raised that the High Court decision did not uphold, and the Trans-Tasman Resources’ appeal has given us the opportunity to challenge those decisions,” KASM chairperson Cindy Baxter said in a statement.

“We owe it to the thousands of people across the country who opposed this seabed mining application to make sure that any precedent set by these decisions are as strong as possible in terms of protecting the environment and natural justice.”

Issues they want leave to appeal include: the application of the precautionary principle and international law; the conduct of the hearing itself – including how the chairman of the EPA committee used his casting vote; the failure of the EPA to take economic costs as well as benefits into account; the way the EPA dealt with issues around the effects of seabed mining crossing the boundary into the coastal marine area; and the failure to differentiate between a bond and public liability insurance. 

TTR has faced a number of obstacles in its bid to begin mining. Its initial consent bid for the project was turned down in 2014 - largely due to a lack of baseline information on the expected impacts of its proposal.

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