New Plymouth is the largest metropolitan area in Taranaki, a region that is world renowned for its pristine black sands and fantastic fishing and surfing. The sands are black due to a large concentration of iron and believe it or not, an Australian company wants to come in and dig up the seabeds to mine for iron to sell to China. And our current National government wants to give them a $15 million research and development grant to help them do it.
Taranaki submitted more than 4,000 written submission opposing seabed mining, and some of us followed up with an oral submission. The New Zealand Environmental Protection Agency held hearings in New Plymouth today. This was my oral submission:
I’m a 10 year resident of Taranaki and a naturalised New Zealand citizen. I’m also a taxpayer and a ratepayer.* I’m here today because I’m really worried about the effect seabed sand mining will have on my community. Especially after watching the destructive effect caused by the explosion of fracking wells across our region.
The people of Taranaki have been fighting seabed mining for nearly a decade. The coalition opposing seabed mining makes for some pretty unlikely bedfellows and includes environmentalists and sustainability advocates, surfers, commercial fishermen, tourism operators and ratepayers.
We are all concerned about the negative environmental consequences I mention in my written submission. We are concerned that Trans Tasman Resources have no proven track record with this type of operation. Because the technology being proposed has never been done anywhere in the world, there is no certainty over short and long term impacts. And we’re fed up with being used as guinea pigs by foreign corporations.
Many people in Taranaki worry that their livelihoods will be affected by sand mining, especially fishermen, surfers and tourism operators. One thing we know for sure is that the sediment plume created by sand mining will negatively impact microplankton that are vital to the food chain for all marine life.
Surfers – surfing is a business in Taranaki and not just a recreational pursuit – are concerned that seabed mining will alter the architecture of Taranaki’s renowned wave swells that are important tourist attraction.
Ratepayers are tired of foreign corporations promising us that they will bring new jobs and wealth to our community. But once they set up operation we find out that the jobs are temporary jobs that are mostly taken by people from somewhere else and all the wealth ends up overseas or in Auckland. And the community as a whole ends up poorer, as we lose our small businesses, our property values plummet and our rates increase to pay for the new infrastructure we have to build to accommodate overseas corporations.
There is a very strong environmental community in Taranaki which is very concerned about two endangered species resident off our coast: the Maui Dolphin and the Blue Whale. These two species are on the verge of being wiped out. Disrupting the food chain that supports them could be the event that tips them over.
We’re also really tired of being a sacrifice zone at the mercy of foreign loot and pollute corporations.
We believe it’s wrong to ask us to sacrifice our small businesses and quality of life to foreign corporations. And we have absolutely no confidence in foreign corporations regulating themselves. We’ve already been through that scenario with the negative affect on our farming community. You wake up one morning discover that your well water has been contaminated or your kids are getting sick from the constant noise or fumes and find that you can’t get insurance on your land and you can’t sell it.
You go to your district and regional council for help and suddenly you discover there’s no regulatory regime to monitor these foreign corporations. And no one to make them assume liability for any damage they cause.
Unlike other industrialized countries, in New Zealand foreign corporations are left to regulate themselves and people victimized by them are out of luck. Groups such as Kiwis Against Seabed Mining are denied funding to get expert advice to scrutinize and oppose TTR’s application under the New Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf Act, while the National Government promises TTR a $15 million research and development grant if the project goes ahead.
We feel there’s something terribly wrong with the government’s priorities. They should be supporting healthy vibrant local economies and not foreign corporations at the expense of New Zealand residents.
*In New Zealand property taxes are referred to as “rates.”