Taranaki iwi rejects 'haters and wreckers' tag

7:00 pm on 6 March 2017

A South Taranaki iwi says it has been painted as a bunch of "haters and wreckers" by a company applying to mine millions of tonnes of iron sands from the seabed off the coast of Patea.

Anti-seabed mining protestors outside the Environmental Protection Authority hearing into Trans Tasman Resources seabed mining application.

Anti-seabed mining protesters outside the Environmental Protection Authority hearing into Trans-Tasman Resources seabed mining application. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

The Environmental Protection Authority is considering a consents application that would allow Trans-Tasman Resources to process 55 million tonnes of iron sands a year for up to 35 years.

Bus-loads of placard-waving South Taranaki Māori arrived in New Plymouth today for the Taranaki leg of the authority's hearings.

Ngāti Ruanui, Ngā Rauru and Ngāruahine iwi were being heard - all three oppose the company's application to mine about 65 sq km, some 30km offshore.

Debbie Ngarewa-Packer

Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said the image of the iwi as "haters and wreckers" was not accurate. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Ngāti Ruanui chief executive Debbie Ngarewa-Packer told the hearing the company had not been transparent with iwi, which feared an environmental catastrophe if the application was successful.

Ms Ngarewa-Packer said Ngāti Ruanui had a good track record working with oil and gas companies, but communication with Trans-Tasman Resources had been the worst she had ever experienced.

She said the company's inability to co-operate on a cultural impact statement had led to a lack of trust, which meant the iwi was not confident the company could mitigate any negative environmental affects of its operation.

Ms Ngarewa-Packer said the average annual income in Patea was $17,000 and the while the iwi was not in a position to turn down genuine economic opportunities it did not have confidence in Trans-Tasman Resources .

"The image painted of us as haters and wreckers is just not accurate," she said.

Ngāti Ruanui planning expert Graham Young said his main environmental concern was the sediment plume created by the mining activity and its potential negative effects.

Mr Young said he disagreed with the company's position that the effects beyond the project area were minimal.

The Exclusive Economic Zone Act called for a precautionary approach, he said.

Trans-Tasman Resources, which had a similar application to mine iron sands off the coast of Patea rejected in 2014, said the science had improved and it could be done with minimal environmental damage.