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Environmental groups weigh legal action

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 24/04/2017 Rebecca Howard

Environmental groups Kiwis Against Seabed Mining and Greenpeace may apply for a judicial review of Trans Tasman Resources' bid to mine iron sands from the ocean floor in New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone, arguing the process is flawed.

The hearing, which began in mid-February and has been extended to May 31, marks the second time TTR has sought permission to mine titano-magnetite iron sands on the sea floor off the coast of Whanganui.

The company, which is 55 per cent New Zealand owned, proposes extracting 50 million tonnes of seabed material a year in order to export up to five million tonnes of iron sand per year for as long as 35 years.

Its first application was rejected in 2014 when a committee appointed by the Environmental Protection Authority ruled the environmental impacts of the proposal were too difficult to gauge on the evidence available.

This time, the new committee opted to extend the process and request more information, provoking the ire of those opposed to the project who argue that it should have been rejected outright given the gaps in information.

The environmental lobby groups said the "flawed" hearing process had "gone off the rails" and that they were considering legal action.

"After accepting the original application as 'complete,' and after evidence from submitters, the caucusing of a wide range of experts, and recalling experts to give further evidence, the EPA has now turned around and asked the company for a whole lot of new information," KASM chair Phil McCabe said.

He said they told the EPA the information was missing in September "yet the EPA went ahead and accepted this deficient application - and are now requesting detail they should have asked for seven months ago".

According to the groups "it is demonstrably clear ... that the (EPA) has embarked on an exercise of completing and, in effect, proving the applicant's case.

As a result, they are considering applying for a judicial review of the process, a declaratory statement, or an appeal based on the flawed process.

In response to the objections, the decision-making committee (DMC) said in a minute published on the EPA's website that its mandate "imposes an obligation on the DMC to seek information throughout the process and provides wide powers for the DMC to do so."

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