Trans-Tasman Resources has lost its attempt by the Supreme Court to overturn a decision that prevented it from mining millions of tons of iron sands off the coast of South Taranaki.
In a unanimous decision published today, the Supreme Court has confirmed previous decisions of the Superior Court and the Court of Appeals that nullify the company’s consents.
Trans-Tasman Resources wanted to absorb up to 50 million tonnes of sand a year from the seabed to extract vanadium-rich iron ore.
To do this, the company required marine consents and marine discharge consents under the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act of 2012 (the EEZ Act).
It got the go-ahead from the Environmental Protection Agency in 2107, but Kiwis Against Seabed Minining (Kasm), Ngāti Ruanui, Nga Rauru Kītahi, Greenpeace and seven other environmental and fisheries groups successfully fought for approval through the High Court and the Court of Appeal. .
Natalie Coates, a legal counsel for Te Kahui O Rauru who appeared for the iwi in both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, said it was a precedent-setting decision.
“This is an exciting day for iwi. The Supreme Court’s decision sets a precedent and will have implications beyond the specific EEZ Act.
“The Court has given firm and clear direction on the central role that Te Tiriti has in our constitution and in the law that will guide how all the clauses of the Treaty will be interpreted in the future in legislation. Tikanga was also affirmed as part of our law. “
The company appealed to the Supreme Court in November last year, arguing that the Court of Appeals had given too much weight to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
He also affirmed that the Court of Appeals had relied too strictly on environmental protection and that the evaluation of the mining offer must consider the economic benefits as well as the environmental impact.
In its decision, the Supreme Court disagreed, falling on the side of protecting the environment, particularly with regard to marine mammals and seabirds.
“Given the uncertainty of the information related to the effect of TTR activities on these species, EPA’s Decision-Making Committee simply could not be satisfied that the conditions it imposed were adequate to protect the environment from contamination. “.
The Supreme Court also clarified the focus of the Waitangi Treaty clause in the Exclusive Economic Zone Law, holding that a broad and generous approach was required.
He said EPA’s Decision-Making Committee must consider the effects of TTR’s proposed activity on existing principles in a way that recognizes the Crown’s obligation to give effect to the principles of the Treaty.
“These existing interests include customary rights and interests based on tikanga, including kaitiakitanga … the Court also agreed that the DMC should consider tikanga as law as ‘other applicable law’ under decision-making criteria. where its recognition and application are appropriate to the particular circumstances of the application in question. “
The Supreme Court found that the DMC had made several mistakes in relation to these issues.
He returned the matter to the EPA for reconsideration but, as the iwi parties wanted together with the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand, he did not dismiss the TTR request outright.
The parties were invited to seek guidance regarding the Superior Court costs.