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Government muzzles environmental watchdog to pave way for mining deals

Wednesday, November 11: A “dirty deal” between big business and the Government to sideline the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and strip it of some of its powers is being considered after the watchdog declined two seabed mining applications.

ONE News revealed the deal could remove the EPA’s power to appoint an independent board to assess marine mining applications, and instead the Minister for the Environment, Nick Smith, would hand pick the board of inquiry himself.

Greenpeace Executive Director, Dr Russel Norman, was interviewed during the news segment and calls the move a “dirty back-door deal” that takes any integrity out of the process.

“It’s like being able to choose one of your friends to mark your exam paper rather than having someone independent do it – it’s ludicrous,” he says.

The EPA was created by the Government in 2009 to act as an independent environmental regulator.

At the time, MP Nick Smith lauded its establishment.

“Creating an EPA was a 2008 election promise by National and will strengthen New Zealand’s environmental management. It will help achieve the Government’s goal of growing our economy while effectively protecting our natural environment,” he said.

Since then, the watchdog has declined two applications for seabed mining because of the environmental impacts: The first, an iron sand mining project proposed by Trans-Tasman Resources Limited in June 2014; and the second, an application by Chatham Rock Phosphate Limited in February this year.

Norman doesn’t believe it’s a coincidence that these rejections could be closely followed by Smith being handed control over choosing the decision makers from now on.

“Ever since the EPA declined those mining applications, lobbying efforts from the industry went into overdrive. Now the Government is putting the profit of this polluting industry over the interests of most New Zealanders who want to protect our beaches and oceans,” he says.

“It has basically rendered the entire process pointless and made it nothing but a political rubberstamp. This is about a government that is fixated with mining and oil exploration and now needs its minister to step in and protect the interests of an industry that is throwing its toys out of the crib.”


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