Updated: Sep 27, 2022
Oceans advocates from across Aotearoa today called on the New Zealand Government to urgently ban seabed mining. Via this live webinar, experts and community representatives voiced huge concerns over the threat of seabed mining in New Zealand and frustration that they have been battling this issue for decades.
Left to right: Barry Weeber, Chair of ECO; Cath Wallace, vice-chair of ECO; Cindy Baxter, Chair of KASM; Debbie Ngarewa-Packer MP and Ngati Ruanui; James Hita, Greenpeace Aotearoa; Duncan Currie, legal adviser to KASM and Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC); Phil McCabe, former KASM chair, now Pacific Liaison, DSCC; Scott Macindoe, LegaSea.
The webinar, convened and hosted by the Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ, ECO was co-organised with the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) and Kiwis Against Seabed Mining (KASM) and Greenpeace Aotearoa and featured speakers from Te Pāti Māori, the recreational fishing group LegaSea, and the groups above. The audience dialled in from across Aotearoa and the Pacific region, with some from further afield, like Namibia, where another fierce battle against seabed mining is taking place.
Introducing the meeting, Co-chair of ECO, Barry Weeber began by stating that,
“Seabed mining is a threat to all seabed life and the sediment plume and other impacts are lethal to ecosystems. New Zealand has an opportunity right now to protect deep sea life.”
Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, MP for Te Pāti Māori, who led the Ngati Ruanui opposition to the Trans Tasman Resources applications to mine the seabed of the South Taranaki Bight, was strong in her calls for a ban and pointed out the inherent need to respect matauranga Māori and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
“Throughout this battle we have had our cultural concerns ignored… and this is the battle for a lot of indigenous people. It has been a really hard battle to have governments and courts recognise the rights of indigenous people,” said Ngarewa-Packer.
“From our perspective seabed mining is a violation of our kaitiakitanga, and as defenders of the ecosystems that’s as simple as we see it. It will affect everything that is a part of who we were and who we are, and it must be protected. That is the intangible life force (mauri) that comes with the tangible. That is our point of difference as indigenous people”.
Cindy Baxter, Chair of Kiwis Against Seabed Mining has worked relentlessly to oppose the three seabed mining applications to the Environmental Protection Authority, in a bid to stop seabed mining in Aotearoa's waters. She highlighted the main issues and the court cases that have been fought to date.
“It’s criminal that the government is relying on community groups and volunteers to fund court cases to try to stop seabed mining,” said Baxter. “It’s time now for the New Zealand government to do the right thing by its citizens and ban seabed mining here once and for all. We’ve had enough, and the process we’ve been through makes it quite clear that the damage it would cause is unacceptable.”
Seabed mining is an experimental industrial field, which uses machines to extract elements deep within the seabed, scraping the sea floor and damaging marine life.
Scientists are warning that if deep-sea mining goes ahead it will cause unprecedented environmental destruction to the Pacific Ocean and Scott MacIndoe of LegaSea pointed out the destruction that seabed mining causes for all marine life.
“The seafloor is sacred and all activities need to stay off the bottom,” said Macindoe. “Given the state of the ocean and the planet, we must stop further withdrawals from the bank of non-renewables.”
The proposed activity, its documented impacts, the legal arguments and judgements, and international law, were outlined by Duncan Currie, international and environmental lawyer for the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition.
“To protect our seabed we need to ban seabed mining in New Zealand’s waters and stand for a moratorium in international waters,” said Currie. “There is a clear pathway forward for this government, which will set the right example and support the many Pacific countries who oppose deep seabed mining.”
James Hita, Seabed Mining Campaigner for Greenpeace recognised the tens of thousands of people across Aotearoa who have signed the petitions to ban seabed mining in New Zealand.
“Over 40,000 people have signed petitions calling on the government to ban seabed mining across the motu,” said Hita.
“The New Zealand government must to listen to the growing number of people who don’t want seabed mining here, and who want to protect the moana for future generations.”
Former Chair of KASM and current Pacific Liaison with the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, Phil McCabe also spoke out on the issue.
“New Zealand’s track-record on seabed mining has shown that it cannot be done without causing serious environmental destruction and that’s just not ok,” said McCabe. “It needs to be banned here at home and with the push for massive scale mining in the deep Pacific, the New Zealand government is perfectly placed to be a global leader in calling for a moratorium in international waters to protect our beloved ocean from this unacceptable activity.”
Next webinar - Seabed mining in the Pacific
The next webinar, on Thursday 2nd of June at 12:30pm, will focus on Pacific Seabed Mining. Experts and advocates from across the Pacific will share their concerns and what needs to be done to protect Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa from the threat of deep sea mining in international waters, which is currently being supported by New Zealand.
The Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ (ECO) is convening and co-hosting these webinars with Kiwis Against Seabed Mining, LegaSea, Greenpeace Aotearoa and the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition.