Forest and Bird warn of risks to marine mammals at seabed mining hearing

Forest & Bird is warning that the destructive practice of seabed mining would cause significant damage to the marine environment if allowed to proceed in the South Taranaki Bight.

The environmental organisation will be appearing at Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) hearings starting today, opposing the latest plans to mine for iron ore sand.

Trans Tasman Resources Limited (TTRL) has applied to undertake iron sand seabed mining in the region between South Taranaki and Golden Bay. The application area covers 65 km² of seabed, more than three times the size of Kapiti Island.

In their submission, Forest & Bird describe the significant damage that mining would cause to the seafloor, and to seabirds, fish and marine mammals.

"We know that the mining will have a significant impact on the seafloor and associated marine life, not just in the vast mine footprint, but on a much wider area due to suspended sediment plumes," says Forest & Bird Chief Executive Kevin Hague.

"But what is equally important is what we don’t know about the long term and cumulative impacts on the habitat of threatened and at risk species."

Thirteen whales and dolphin species are known to use the South Taranaki Bight, and whale stranding records show that impacts on a much larger number of species should be considered.

TTRL has also failed to provide a thorough description of noise from their proposed operations, making it impossible to assess the impacts on whales and dolphins in the region.

"The South Taranaki Bight has been recognised as an important blue whale foraging ground, possibly one of only five known in the Southern Hemisphere outside of Antarctica," says Mr Hague. The blue whale is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as internationally endangered.

"This is a terrible proposal, not just in terms of environmental impacts, but also due to the potential damage to the New Zealand’s ‘clean green’ reputation and tourist industry," says Mr Hague.

A total of 13,733 submissions were received on this application, the highest number of submissions the EPA has received on any application since it was established in 2011. "There is a huge amount of community feeling against this destructive practice," says Mr Hague.

"We are urging the EPA to decline the application."

The hearings start today, Thursday 16 February, in the Members’ Lounge of Westpac Stadium and run until March 20.