The Decision-making Committee appointed by the EPA Board to decide on the application by Chatham Rock Phosphate Ltd for a marine consent to mine phosphorite nodules in the Chatham Rise has delivered its decision.
In summary, Chatham Rock Phosphate Ltd (CRP) sought a marine consent under the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012 (the EEZ Act) to mine phosphorite nodules from the Chatham Rise, initially within an 820 sq. km area for which it has a mining permit. In the future, mining was also to occur in a wider 5,207 sq. km area, dependent on monitoring results and environmental investigations. CRP sought a marine consent from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in relation to the wider area (5,207 sq. km).
The Decision-making Committee (DMC) appointed by the EPA to hear and determine the marine consent application has REFUSED consent.
The DMC has issued a decision setting out its reasons for refusing the consent. It concluded that mining would cause significant and permanent adverse effects on the existing benthic environment. This includes communities dominated by protected stony corals which are potentially unique to the Chatham Rise and which the DMC concluded are rare and vulnerable ecosystems.
Notwithstanding the efforts of the applicant to research and substantiate its case, the DMC was left with a lack of certainty about the receiving environment and the adverse effects of the proposal on the environment and existing interests. In these circumstances the DMC was required to favour caution and environmental protection when making a decision on the marine consent application (section 61(2) of the EEZ Act). The DMC considered whether the adaptive management approach proposed by the applicant would enable the proposed mining operation to be undertaken (section 61(3) of the EEZ Act). The DMC found that the destructive effects of the extraction process, coupled with the potentially significant impact of the deposition of sediment on areas adjacent to the mining blocks and on the wider marine environment, could not be mitigated by any set of conditions or adaptive management regime that might be reasonably imposed. The DMC also concluded that the economic benefit to New Zealand of the proposal would be modest at best.
After weighing all the material before it, taking into account the matters listed in section 59 of the EEZ Act, and applying the information principles, the DMC concluded that the application could not be approved either in part or in whole and therefore the consent was refused.
Appeals to the High Court on question of law
Sections 105 to 112 of the EEZ Act contain the process for making an appeal on a marine consent decision. The ability to appeal the decision is limited to the applicant and any submitter on the application. Appeals must be on a question of law.
Parties considering an appeal should contact their solicitor, the New Zealand High Court or visit www.justice.govt.nz for details. It is recommended that any parties considering appealing take legal advice. A fee is required for filing an appeal.
Appeals must be filed with the Registrar of the High Court and served on the EPA within 15 working days of receiving the decision.
Appeals should be filed with the Registrar at:
New Zealand High Court
2 Molesworth Street
Telephone: (04) 914 3600
Fax: (04) 914 3603
A copy of any appeal must be served on the EPA at:
Environmental Protection Authority
Private Bag 63002
Attn: Chief Legal Advisor