Thousands of submissions against a proposed seabed mining project in Taranaki are being ignored, opponents say.
Greenpeace and Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) say the Environmental Protection Authority's summary of the submissions is misleading, and its report should be withdrawn.
Hearings are underway now for Trans-Tasman Resources' application to process 50 million tonnes of iron sands a year for up to 35 years, from a 65 square kilometre block off the coast of Patea.
A similar application was rejected in 2014, but the company said the science had progressed and any environmental damage would be minimal.
The environmental groups said a detailed analysis of submissions made for the application did not include more than 13,000 objections to the project that were made via their websites.
KASM spokesperson Phil McCabe said the report instead drew attention to the submissions made directly to the Environmental Protection Authority website, of which 56 percent were in favour.
"The analysis only looks in detail at the 262 submissions that went directly to the EPA website. They've all but ignored the other 13,400 or so submissions that came through third-party websites, through KASM and Greenpeace's websites."
Mr McCabe said the report gave the impression a majority of submitters were in favour of the project, which was not the case.
"It's a bizarre approach and in our view it's essentially disrespecting people that made submissions and not taking their views into account.
"Another issue is that those submissions are not available to be viewed on the EPA website, therefore they are not on the record."
KASM and Greenpeace have asked for the report to be withdrawn.
But the authority's decision-making committee said the report did not hide from the fact that there were a large number of third-party submissions opposed to the project and it would not be withdrawing it.
"In the decision-making committee's view there is nothing misleading about the report... It does not attempt to suggest there were not a large volume of third-party web-based submissions that opposed the proposal."
The key themes and character of the third-party submissions were set out in the report, the committee said.
"This report does not, and was never intended to, remove the requirement for committee to have regard to any and all submissions made and it will be discharging this duty accordingly."
Iwi have lost faith
Busloads of South Taranaki Māori attended the hearings in New Plymouth yesterday where Ngāti Ruanui, Ngaa Rauru and Ngaruahine made submissions. All three iwi oppose the application.
Kaiarataki Te Runanga o Ngāti Ruanui spokesperson Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said the iwi had a good relationship with oil and gas companies and took issue with Trans Tasman Resources painting it as obstructive.
"We are not a tribe that will sit there and turn our back on opportunities. We can't afford to be. So this myth, this legend, this whole Walt Disney story that the 'haters and wreckers' don't want progress is simply not correct."
The iwi had lost faith in Trans Tasman Resources and did not believe it could control the environmental impacts of the project, Ms Ngarewa-Packer said.
Outside the hearing, Hawera kuia Tangiora Avery simply worried about what the effect of the project would be on her mokopuna.
"The sea is a life-giving thing that has been going on for our people for centuries. It's our food basket. We were taught from the time as babies how to go, where to go, what to do on the beach.
"When you have people tearing at your beach there's going to be nothing left for the next generation that's here."
Hearings into Trans Tasman Resources' application are due to end on 20 March and a decision is due 20 working days later.