14 September 2013


The Greens and a group representing deepwater fishing have formed an unlikely alliance. They're challenging a proposal to mine an underwater national park off the East Coast of the South Island.

They say it makes a mockery of our marine protection laws and could create an environmental catastrophe at sea.

Chatham Rock Phosphate is the latest company to join the deepsea mining mineral rush.

“What we're planning to do is mine rock phosphate from the seabed just offshore New Zealand,” says Chris Castle of Chatham Rock Phosphate.

The company says the phosphate will be used in fertilisers and will reduce the amount Kiwi farmers have to import.

But to get that phosphate, the company and its Netherlands-based partner, Royal Boskalis, want to suck up 450 square kilometres of the ocean floor.

Chatham Rock Phosphate has its sights on a protected area known as the Chatham Rise, an underwater national park between Christchurch and the Chatham Islands.


The company says it expects the plan will generate $300 million in exports each year and hundreds of jobs. But opponents say the environmental costs will be far greater.

And those opponents include the Deepwater Group, which represents the majority of New Zealand's deepwater fisheries quota owners.

“That's some of our main nursery areas for hoki,” says Deepwater Group chief executive George Clement. “Our concern is that if we smother the area with silt then it will be less productive and we may lose it forever.”

Chatham Rock Phosphate says any impact will be minor and temporary. The Deepwater Group disagrees.

“The information we have is that it will kill everything in its path,” says Mr Clement.

Current rules say protected areas are only off limits to fishing. But the Greens say that's no excuse for the Government to be considering giving the company a license, particularly when the area Chatham Rock Phosphate and their Dutch partners want to mine is in New Zealand's exclusive economic zone.

“This is an area that's off limits to bottom trawling and dredging, yet the rules allow a seabed mining company to come along and literally vacuum up the seabed,” says Green Party MP Gareth Hughes.

The Greens say if we damage the environment then we damage our reputation, and any supposed economic benefits will be lost.
Read more: http://www.3news.co.nz/Greens-side-with-group-against-Chatham-mine/tabid/1160/articleID/313221/Default.aspx#ixzz2xahHE5PV