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Trans-Tasman Resources considers options after consent quashed

Wednesday 29th August 2018

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Trans-Tasman Resources is disappointed the High Court quashed its marine consent for an offshore iron sands project and is considering its options.

The appeals were lodged by seven conservation, fishing and iwi groups after the company was given permission to extract 50 million tonnes of seabed material a year. It would export up to 5 million tonnes of iron sand per year from the ocean floor in the South Taranaki Bight, generating $400 million of export revenue annually. 

The 35-year consent was granted in August on the casting vote of the chair of a decision-making committee appointed by the Environmental Protection Authority and included a series of conditions. 

On Tuesday, the High Court ruled the committee's interpretation of an adaptive management approach was too narrow and inconsistent with the Exclusive Economic Zone Act and sent it back to the DMC for reconsideration.

"TTR is disappointed with the High Court outcome," executive chair Alan Eggers said in an emailed response to questions. "TTR is reviewing our QC’s detailed assessment of the ruling and considering our options before being able to comment further." 

Eggers said just one of eight different grounds of appeal was upheld, "and that was solely in relation to the correct legal meaning of 'adaptive management' or the type of environmental compliance monitoring required to be incorporated in the TTR consents."

In yesterday's judgment, Justice Peter Churchman said the committee's interpretation was inconsistent with the purpose of the act of "protecting the environment from pollution by regulating or prohibiting the discharge of harmful substances." It was also inconsistent with the obligation that where information available is uncertain or inadequate, a marine consent authority must favour caution and environmental protection.

"The error was material and may well have influenced the outcome of the consent application," the judgment said.

The court rejected claims that: the EPA should have rejected the application as incomplete; that the committee had failed to apply the legislation's information principles correctly; that the committee had not properly considered the effects of the proposal on existing interests; that the committee had not taken a sufficiently cautious approach; and that it had failed to observe the principles of natural justice.    

TTR has faced a number of obstacles in its bid to begin mining. Its initial consent bid for the project was turned down in 2014 - largely due to a lack of baseline information on the expected impacts of its proposal. 

(BusinessDesk)

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