New Zealand: Supreme Court upholds decision to quash consents to seabed mining

The Supreme Court of New Zealand (SCNZ) decided (30 September 2021) to uphold previous High Court and Court of Appeal decisions quashing consents granted by the Decision Making Committee (DMC) of New Zealand’s Environmental Protection Agency that would have allowed mining company Trans-Tasman Resources Limited (TTR) to extract up to 50 million tonnes per annum from the South Taranaki Bight seabed (Case number [2021] NZSC 127).

Among other issues of domestic law, SCNZ found that in considering the effect of the Treaty of Waitangi to the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012, the DMC should have taken into account the effects of the proposed activity on existing interests adding that tikanga-based customary rights and interests constitute “existing interests” (…) including kaitiakitanga and rights claimed, but not yet granted, under the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011. The court considered that the proposed activity in terms of tikanga may indicate that material harm extends beyond the physical effects of a discharge, or that pollution can be spiritual as well as physical.

A press release with further details on the case Trans-Tasman Resources Ltd v Taranaki-Whanganui Conservation Board is available here.

The South Taranaki Bight (STB) showing the Sediment Model Domain (SMD) (oblique black rectangle). The approximate project area is shown in red and the 12 NM boundary of the Territorial Sea is shown in yellow. Source: SC 28/2020 [2021] NZSC 127, page 128.

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