The Decision-making Committee, appointed by the Board of the Environmental Protection Authority to decide a marine consent application by Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR), has granted consent, subject to conditions, for the company to mine iron sands off the South Taranaki Bight.
However, members of the Decision-making Committee did not agree in the final deliberations.
Namely, Committee Chairman Alick Shaw and Dr Kevin Thompson voted to grant consent. Deputy Chair, Sharon McGarry and Gerry Te Kapa Coates, voted to refuse consent, citing concerns over localised adverse environmental effects and tangata whenua existing interests.
In accordance with the procedures adopted before the hearing began, the decision to grant consent, subject to conditions, was determined on the casting vote of Shaw, as Chair of the DMC.
While the committee worked collaboratively on the agreed factual narrative of the report, it recorded major differences in its interpretation of the evidence.
The committee’s rationale for granting consent is set out in the over 300-page decision document and includes conditions and operating constraints to limit the scale, intensity and duration of the discharge effects of residual material to the seabed, known as sediment plume, as well as impacts on marine mammals.
With the imposition of such conditions, TTR’s marine consent application to mine iron sands in the South Taranaki Bight is granted and will remain in place for 35 years.
In its summary, the committee states: “Although some submitters had misgivings about the quality of information, we determined that it was sufficient for our purposes… and we are satisfied that we have been able to make our decision based on the best available information in accordance with the EEZ Act.”
A pre-commencement monitoring plan must collect two-years worth of data before mining commences. That data, and subsequent monitoring data during the operations, will further inform management plans and operational decisions, as required by the consent conditions.
The decision is subject to appeal on points of law by the applicant and any submitters.