On the headland that anchors one end of my local beach, there’s a sign on a resident’s house that says “Pen-Yr-Angor”.
As a journalist I can’t give my opinion. As a blogger, I’m going to share with you something that arrived in my inbox and made me bash my keyboard in frustration. Here's what it said (anything in brackets is mine):
On 3 August 2017, the Decision-making Committee (of our Government’s so-called Environmental Protection Authority) granted consent subject to conditions for Trans-Tasman Resources Limited to extract and process iron sand within the South Taranaki Bight.
Here’s what’s going to happen now.
The Consent Holder will extract up to 12.5 million tonnes of seabed material per 3-month period, and 50 million tonnes of seabed material during any year for the term of these consents. That’s all the creatures that make up what’s known as benthic communities in that area of seafloor.
And here’s what I’ve read about them;
Macrofauna are important components of estuarine and coastal ecosystems, because they serve as critical links between a variety of primary producers and organic matter sources (e.g., phytoplankton, benthic microalgae and macroalgae, detritus) and economically, ecological, and recreationally important fish and crustaceans. They are important components of aquatic food webs and they affect transport and cycling of nutrients and toxicants.
I’ll come back to what’s expected to happen when this company, TTRL, has finished mining the seabed of its life (in order to get iron).
But here is what else the EPA’s decision acknowledged from experts.
There is a ‘whale pathway’ in the area to be mined.
This mining is going to take place in “an important whale nursery or feeding area where certain whale species visit at various times of year during their life span.”
Blue whale vocalisations have been detected on 89 per cent of days.
That’s not all. The Māui dolphin is one of the three most threatened small cetaceans in the world and it lives here.
The latest Māui dolphin population estimate reported by the Department of Conservation puts the population at 63 dolphins over the age of one.
For critically endangered species like the Māui dolphin, even very small effects can be biologically meaningful.
Professor Liz Slooten, who gave evidence to the hearing, considers that any noise pollution, including seismic surveys and mining, risks displacing the Māui dolphin into high risk areas – such as areas where commercial fishing takes place.
There is already overlap between Māui dolphins and fisheries in the area. She thinks it likely that this overlap, and its attendant risks, will be intensified due to habitat displacement caused by the mining area and its sediment plume.
All of the above came directly from the EPA’s decision report.
Sightings of the dolphin appear to be rare in the Sth Taranaki Bight (no surprises, when there are only an estimated 63 of them left) but there were seven sightings, with one occurring about 9 km inshore of the mining area and another about 55 km to the east near Whanganui. The furthest offshore was 49 km.
The fishing threat to Māui dolphins still exists, as three to four members of the species are killed per year (New Zealand wide). A sustainable level would be one dolphin every 10 to 23 years.
As pointed out by the EPA’s own Maori advisory committee, Ngā Kaihautū Tikanga Taiao, there was no bond mechanism demanded, or insurance cover towards environmental restoration, should something go wrong.
New jobs are unlikely to significantly reduce unemployment levels (from the independent Social Impact Assessment).
But back to what the EPA says should happen so that it’s all good to mine the seabed.
Five years following the completion of all seabed material extraction: “The Consent Holder shall be required to demonstrate that recovery of the macroinfauna benthic community at that location has occurred.”
This recovery is defined as when the macroinfauna communities at a specified location are within 15 per cent of the average pre-mining total abundance, biomass and species richness.
That sounds, well, not too bad right? But if annual monitoring shows that’s not likely to happen?
Get Consent Holder to highlight this to us at the EPA; find a duly qualified benthic ecology expert to tell the EPA possible reasons why recovery is not on track; and potential measures to ‘enhance’ it. Then explain how, as Consent Holders, they can demonstrate that recovery of the macroinfauna benthic community has occurred.”
Suck it and see, then.
If you're spending a lot of your day in bare feet, then chances are you have found the kind of balance that Hook & Arrow writer Alison Smith has found in life.