Supreme Court win in fight against seabed mining

On Thursday 30 September, the Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Authority were wrong in granting consent to Trans Tasman Resources in 2017 to mine the South Taranaki seabed.

The Raglan community and Kiwis Against Seabed Mining have been involved in this fight against seabed mining for nearly two decades. 

The Chronicle caught up with ex-KASM chair Phil McCabe about the latest court decision.

What does the recent Supreme Court decision mean for Seabed Mining in Aotearoa?

I guess it means that after more than 15 years of seabed miners attempting to strip mine our seabed and three applications where the activity was really intensely scrutinised against our laws, it’s all failed. And also the intention of previous governments to enable a seabed mining industry in NZ waters, has also failed. It’s inappropriate and it’s time to put it to bed.

What is the general feeling among those involved after many years of campaigning to reach this point in the fight? 

Everyone’s super stoked. A lot of emotions, relief, a sense of redemption. Effectively, the highest court in the land agreed with us ocean loving people who intuitively knew this wasn’t ok and that’s why we stood up against it. So it feels good to have this confirmation. We know it’s been hugely stressful for a lot of people, particularly communities in South Taranaki that were facing this activity directly off their shores.

What groups or people were instrumental in this journey?

Just so many people and groups, but I’m going to point to the staunch, unflinching people of Ngati Ruanui and Nga Rauru Kiitahi. Ten years ago the entire coast was up for grabs and the first application could have been anywhere but happened to land on their doorstep. They led the defence and we all backed them up. It was a coast wide effort. 

Do you think that TTR will reapply for more consents?

They could. They’re saying that they will and this is the problem. The Supreme Court decision is a crystal clear win. It says that it is illegal for humans to “cause material harm” to the environment and seabed mining can’t be done without breaking stuff .But the fact is that they could start the process of reapplication tomorrow and drag us through more processes taking years & causing serious trauma. So this is really why we need to call on Jacinda Ardern to ban the activity in our waters. 

You are the Pacific liaison for the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition. What’s going on with seabed mining internationally that people need to pay attention to?

Yeah, I’ve been in this role for a little over 18 months, focussing on the Pacific region as part of a global campaign. We’re working to stop massive scale deep sea mining before it starts. There’s a 1.3 million sq km area in international waters of the Pacific ocean between Hawaii and Mexico that’s as wide as the continental United States. A UN body is in the process of opening this area up to wannabe miners and mining may start in 2023/24. New Zealand is currently supporting that process and we’re trying to get them to stand in alignment with our track record at home. The scale of this makes the TTR proposal seem tiny in comparison and the deep ocean ecosystems are super delicate and sensitive and the damage would be permanent in human time-scales. So again, it’s just wrong.

The good news is that the pushback is building momentum but we really need New Zealand to support our call for a moratorium in international waters. 

And how does it relate to climate change?

Well it’s been well recognized at the highest levels that the ocean is our greatest climate regulator & carbon sink and the most powerful driver in limiting warming to 1.5 degrees. So a healthy fully functioning ocean is 100% necessary for our survival. And seabed mining’s inescapably destructive nature just undermines all those efforts to restore ocean health. To me it’s just a no go.

What is the best way that we as a community can support the ongoing fight against seabed mining?

Sign the petition calling on Jacinda Ardern to ban seabed mining in Aotearoa New Zealand and write to politicians encouraging New Zealand to lead the world in calling for a moratorium on seabed mining in international waters.

Any final words or thoughts:

A heartfelt thanks and congratulations to the many people who stood up on this in whatever way. Together, we done good and we just need one last nudge to get our government to do the right thing.