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LETTER: Govt ‘only allowing exploration’

Saturday 18 September 2021 | Written by Supplied | Published in Letters to the Editor, Opinion

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LETTER: Govt ‘only allowing exploration’
Papa Terii Kaisara Pa ki Tonga Ariki at the seabed minerals consultation in Pukapuka. SBM/21021953

Dear Editor, The recent IUCN call for a moratorium on seabed minerals activities (SBM) highlights the shared concerns of the Government and civil society organisations such as IUCN and Te Ipukarea Society:

• We agree that the protection of the marine environment should be at the forefront in the development of the SBM sector.

• We support the application of the precautionary and ecosystem approaches to SBM activities.

• We agree that a decision to move from exploration to harvesting (or mining) phase should not be made until the environmental impacts are well understood and can be sustainably managed.

• We agree that exploration research is fundamental to understanding the marine environment, and any impacts potential harvesting operations may have.

However, the IUCN moratorium also calls for a halt to exploration licensing. This is difficult to understand given the importance of exploration to understanding our Marae Moana and any potential impacts. Gathering scientific data and information costs tens of millions of dollars to conduct thorough baseline studies of the seafloor and water column. I have yet to come across any alternative and adequately funded solutions by which to undertake such exploratory research in our waters.

I must repeat this again as it is important: Government is only allowing exploration to go ahead. We will be in the exploration phase for the next few years. Government has not made any decision on moving to the harvesting phase, because we simply do not have enough information and data to make an informed decision.

The Government will continue to take a science-based approach with transparent decision-making processes, and acting in the best interests of our country and people.

I thank TIS and Ms Evans for their recent comments, and welcome other members of the public to share their feedback directly with the Seabed Minerals Authority.

Kia Manuia and God bless,

Alex Herman

Seabed Minerals Commissioner