Seabed Mining Company Appeals To The Supreme Court

An oil rig off the coast of Taranaki. Photo: Getty Images

Trans-Tasman Resources, a New Zealand-based offshore seabed mining company, is currently seeking permission to mine 50 million tonnes of iron sand a year off the coast of Taranaki. Now, they are looking for consent from the Supreme Court. This would be not just a crime against nature, but a flagrant and violent act of colonialism.

The permit that TTR wants covers an area of 66 square kilometres and would allow them to mine 5 million tonnes of iron ore a year, dumping the other 45 million tonnes back into the sea. 

In 2017, the High Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Authority had made multiple errors of law when it granted the company consent. Having appealed this ruling in the Court of Appeal in April this year and having lost, they have now taken it to the Supreme Court. 

A spokesperson for the Crown Law Office said the Supreme Court, in giving permission to appeal, invited the Attorney-General to intervene in order to make submissions “in relation to te Tiriti o Waitangi, Māori customary interests and the applicability of tikanga to marine and marine consent discharge applications.”

Here the Crown may be the decisive factor in giving TTR the greenlight. But what is more likely is they will ensure that, even if the appeal is quashed, the Environmental Protection Authority, and certainly Māori, will not have the power to halt the current and future defiling of the foreshore and seabed.

This intervention by the Crown is significant as it sheds light on the role the entity plays today, not as the representative of Elizabeth II, but of New Zealand monopoly capital, what Katjo Buissink calls the “modern monarch.” This big effort by Trans Tasman Resources shows us the real source of the vile colonial national relations that exist in NZ today. And it is why we Communists fight for Māori collective ownership of the foreshore and seabed and other taonga as an integral part of the anti-monopoly and anti-colonial struggles, the two being twins in Aotearoa.

The waters just south of Taranaki are home most significantly to populations of the critically endangered Maui Dolphins, of which there are only 63. Mining 50 million tonnes of seabed for 35 years on end is certain to have a devastating impact on their very existence. There is no ‘economic benefit’ – nearly all of which would go to the shareholders of TTR – that is worth driving these animals to extinction.

The bastards at Trans Tasman Resources seem to have both vast sums of capital and the Crown on their side, but they’re up against an environmentalist movement with a strong tradition and the undying struggle of Māori for Tino Rangatiratanga. We cannot allow this disastrous scheme to go any further.