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Lasting seabed protection needed after Supreme Crt call

Forest & Bird is urging all political parties to support the Pati Māori’s proposed ban on seabed mining after the Supreme Court unanimously rejected a proposal to mine iron sand in the South Taranaki Bight.

The Supreme Court today unanimously rejected an appeal by mining company Trans-Tasman Resources Limited (TTR) to mine iron sand in the South Taranaki Bight. This is now the third court to reject the mining proposal.

The area is home to more than 30 species of marine mammals, including some that are critically endangered, including blue whales and Māui dolphins. It is an important migratory corridor for humpback whales. Little blue penguins use the area, and the Patea Shoals are an important natural area closer to shore.

Forest & Bird’s Legal Council Peter Anderson says: "This decision makes it clear that destructive seabed mining damages the environment and is unlikely to get consent under the EEZ legislation. Political parties should now give everyone certainty by bringing forward the Pati Māori’s bill to ban seabed mining.

"The EEZ Act recognises that seabed mining could have significant impacts on the marine environment, and requires protection from such impacts. Three courts have now found that the EPA failed to uphold this requirement.

"The EPA’s original decision to grant consent failed to protect the environment, and didn’t meet the requirements of the EEZ Act. The High Court, the Court of Appeal and now the Supreme Court all have agreed with us.

"Protecting the environment shouldn't require iwi and NGOs to be in court three times to sort out the mess brought by a mining company."

The proposed mining area would have covered 65 square kilometres of seabed, more than three times the size of Kapiti Island. The operation would have sucked-up 8,000 tonnes of seabed every hour for 35 years, to a depth of 11 metres, and pumped unused sediment back to the ocean floor creating a plume of pollution in the water.

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