Taranaki iwi Ngāti Ruanui's taiao spokesperson calls NZ First's Shane Jones' comments about resistance to seabed mining arrogant

Pictured: Resources and Regional Development Minister Shane Jones and Ngāti Ruanui taiao spokesperson Graham Young.
Pictured: Resources and Regional Development Minister Shane Jones and Ngāti Ruanui taiao spokesperson Graham Young. Photo credit: Newshub, RNZ / Robin Martin

By Robin Martin for RNZ

A South Taranaki iwi has described Shane Jones' comments describing hapū members as "pixie-like" for their resistance to seabed mining as unbecoming and arrogant.

During Question Time last week, the Resources and Regional Development Minister told Parliament that seabed mining had a legitimate place in New Zealand's regional economy.

"Sadly a number of pixie-like hapūs (sic) in Taranaki have sought to undermine this legitimate industry."

Ngāti Ruanui taiao spokesperson Graham Young said the comments were derogatory towards hapū members.

"I don't think that's an appropriate way to behave as a minister of the government and I think it shows a high degree of arrogance when, really, we're just trying to achieve the right outcome here in terms of protecting our environment."

Jones went on to signal a law change might be necessary to enable prospective seabed miners to get consents.

"The Environmental Protection Authority legislation if it needs to be changed to give certainty to investors we will not have tikanga Māori mangled and distorted 37 kilometres off the coast of Taranaki."

Young said that was hugely concerning to Ngāti Ruanui which had fought two application by Trans-Tasman Resources to mine iron sands in the Taranaki Bight.

"We are more than happy to educate the minister on some of the key environmental issues that we are facing and which have been proved over and over again in a number of courts including the Supreme Court of New Zealand in terms of this application where this application has continued to be declined.

"I think Ngāti Ruanui, however he likes to describe us, has been vindicated through the court system and continues to fight the fight in terms of future battles that are going to occur over seabed mining."

Young said the impacts of pollution and fishing were huge.

"Three courts have now said the pollution impacts are too great to allow the application to go ahead," he said.

"This is not just iwi saying this but some of the leading experts in their field both nationally and internationally."

He wanted the minister to come to Taranaki and talk to iwi members face to face.

"Clearly Shane Jones has been lobbied. They will, in 30 years' time, leave us with a legacy of a biodiversity disaster.

"Ngāti Ruanui invites Shane Jones to front our people and the community and repeat his statements."

TTR wants to suck up 50 million tonnes of the seabed each year in shallow water off Pātea to extract iron, titanium, and vanadium.

The EPA initially granted consents to mine the seabed, and to discharge 45 million tonnes of unwanted sediment annually back into the marine environment.

Trans-Tasman Resources has claimed seabed mining had the potential to become a $1 billion industry for New Zealand.