A ship operated by DeepGreen Metals, a company seeking to mine parts of the Pacific ocean seabed for polymetallic nodules. Photo: DeepGreen Metals
"Keeping our position fluid certainly does not translate to a full-blown agreement with how the government is proceeding with its seabed mining exploration and potential mining," writes Democratic Party Opposition Leader Tina Pupuke Browne.
There was a verse I memorised as a child which I have
carried through with me to adulthood. It says “Do not go out hastily to argue
your case; otherwise, what will you do in the end, when your neighbour humiliates
you?” – Proverbs 25:8.
This simple verse warns us to be careful for our words lest
in the future they come around and humiliate us.
Recently Prime Minister Brown commented in CINews with
regard to the Democratic Party moving away from a fixed ten-year moratorium on
seabed mining; opting to keep our options open pending reliable Cook Islands
specific data on our seabed resources and the viability of responsible mining.
In his haste to comment, his statements are misleading.
The Democratic Party like any good government, listens to
the voice of its people and takes stock from the many voices that it hears.
Brown is quick to jump on an opportunity that reads like “I told you so.”
Keeping our position fluid certainly does not translate to a
full-blown agreement with how the government is proceeding with its seabed
mining exploration and potential mining.
If the PM had read carefully, rather than been in such a
hurry to respond, he would have noted that I said “any decision on mining
actually going ahead would depend on two critical factors; one is the existence
and availability of environmentally friendly deep-sea mining technology, and
secondly the existence and availability of Cook Islands specific scientific
data. In other words what we are saying is that for any of the mining to go
ahead these conditions must be met."
With these two critical factors in mind, the government
should not be gloating that there is now unanimous political support for seabed
mining. The Opposition’s position that any support is contingent on these two
critical factors being present, articulated and considered in everything we do
with regard to seabed mining and the legislation in place to fully protect this
resource, the ocean floor environment that it will inevitably disrupt. And of
course, the proper, robust financial regime enacted to protect any earnings
from seabed mining solely for the benefit of our people.
PM Brown’s haste to capitalise politically and give himself
a green light on the government’s plans shows little regard for the detail of
our announcement and little regard for our role as the Opposition to keep this
government and seabed mining in check and under careful scrutiny.
When we say our support is contingent and critical of these
two factors - the existence and availability of environmentally friendly
deep-sea mining technology, and secondly the existence and availability of Cook
Islands specific scientific data, we mean exactly that.
To our environmental warriors at Te Ipukarea Society and to
those regional organisations looking carefully at what is taking place here in
the Cook Islands, let us be clear that our role is one of the need for careful,
independent, scientific scrutiny – where the Cook Islands leads this scrutiny.
This scrutiny can never be led by mining companies where it is clear they are
to benefit directly from any opportunity to mine our deep waters.
Any data collected by mining companies from within our EEZ
must be balanced by independent research outside of the mining fraternity and
industry, if possible, from within our own Cook Islands community. We are
asking the government for Cook Islands specific data, and data that is not
sourced from an industry that directly benefits from the data outcome.
Reliability, trustworthiness, transparency and completely
free from corruption are what our people require as we venture into this
potential new realm of seabed mining. Especially with the potential billions of
dollars our country could secure because of it, should the scientific data tell
us we can proceed in a measured and calculated way that protects and preserves
our Moana Nui o Kiva floor with as little disruption to its ecosystem as
possible. These are the benchmarks that we the Democratic Party, when in
government, would ensure and build as foundational to any seabed mining going
We would have to ensure that people have all the evidence.
All the information and all the resources and opportunity to scrutinise and
explore what this government is about to embark on because we know there is
potentially so much to gain, and potentially so much we may destroy and never
get back again.
So don’t not be hasty, Mr Brown, to assume there is
agreement with your government and the Democratic Party Opposition.
Maybe you should instead take the advice emblazoned across
your Golden Oldies League jerseys – slow and steady. Slow and steady is what we
are asking for and what we as the Opposition and Democratic Party demand for
our people and our environment.