More Top Stories


Competitor at heart

11 August 2022


Final counting underway

10 August 2022


The ride of their lives

8 August 2022

Commonwealth Games
Rugby Union

'Acting for change’

19 July 2022

Rugby Union

Golden apples or forbidden fruit?

Friday 25 February 2022 | Written by Te Ipukarea Society | Published in On the Street, Opinion


Golden apples or forbidden fruit?
His Excellency Queen’s Representative Sir Tom Marsters, Prime Minister and Minister of Seabed Minerals Authority Mark Brown, the country manager of CIC Ltd Shona Lynch, Advisory Committee Chair Bishop Tutai Pere, Seabed Minerals Commissioner Alex Herman, Licensing Panel Chair Garth Henderson. PHOTO: MELINA ETCHES/22022301

It was very clear from the speeches made at this week’s licencing ceremony that government fully expects exploration to lead to full scale mining as a logical and natural progression, writes Te Ipukarea Society.

This week we took advantage of the invitation to the ceremony for signing of the deep sea mining exploratory licences, held at the Auditorium domes on Wednesday.

We saw this as an opportunity for a closer look at the various players involved, as well as hearing what they had to say.

As is normal at government events around deep sea mining, there was no shortage of biblical quotes from various speakers as a testament to God’s support for this move towards mining of our deep sea.

Of course, we can come up with at least as may biblical references that would indicate God’s plan is conservative, including Jeremiah 2-7: “And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in, you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination.”

One of the things that has concerned us about the seabed legislation that has been passed, is that the government has insisted on making themselves, rather than the people, who make the decision on whether to allow commercial scale mining to proceed or not.

Despite our best efforts to retain language in the legislation that decisions must be in the public interest (the public is us, the people), government refused and changed the language to “national interest” meaning the Government can decide according to what it thinks is in the national interest.

How does Marae Moana, supposedly the world’s largest marine park, fit in to the decision-making process for deep sea mining?

Well apparently, not at all.

The Technical Advisory Group and the Marae Moana Council, specifically set up to provide guidance to the Marae Moana, were not consulted once during the decision making process for the exploration licences for deep sea mining.

During his speech at the licencing ceremony, Prime Minister (PM) Mark Brown said: “We are very careful about who we allow to operate in our waters.”

However, according to website, US Company Odyssey Marine Exploration, a major player in the Cook Islands Cobalt (CIC) company, is currently suing Mexico for the equivalent of approximately NZ $4 billion (other sources put the figure at around $5b) in lost potential income for denying the company an environmental permit to mine the seabed.

A Mexican local fishing association has also been denied permission to file papers in the case, expressing their concerns over the impacts of the proposed mining on their livelihoods.

In a truly precautionary approach, would it not have been better to give licences to only one or two companies, rather than engage with a company with a history of litigation if they don’t get what they want?

Everyone with a knowledge of deep sea mining, including the government, knows that it will cause irreversible harm to our environment.

The question that has not yet been answered is, what level of harm are we willing to accept if mining goes ahead?

Who will make that decision?

Government will decide!

Is government likely to accept a higher level of harm than the general public?

Despite the Seabed Minerals Authority slogan ‘The Ocean has always supported us, and we will not do anything to impact its ability to continue to support our cultures and Pacific way of life’, we believe government’s priority of economic prosperity will outweigh concerns for our ocean health.

It was very clear from the speeches made at the licencing ceremony that government fully expects exploration to lead to full scale mining as a logical and natural progression.

The PM said: “If we want our people to stay, we want to show them that there is a future here in our country… come and help us pick our golden apples that have been waiting for the right time to be harvested.”

That really does sound like the decision has already been made to allow full scale commercial exploitation of the deep sea bed of our Marae Moana.

The question we should be asking is, “are these nodules truly golden apples or are they actually forbidden fruit, the mining of which will result in us losing our Garden of Eden?”

Editor: According to CIC chief executive officer, Greg Stemm, who was also chief executive at Odyssey prior to taking on the role, the Odyssey Mexican situation is completely different to the Cook Islands context. Stemm says in Mexico, the government had already issued Odyssey a 50-year mining licence to dredge phosphates in relatively shallow water. “Odyssey invested a lot of money on that basis,” he earlier said. “They were not allowed to move forward for strictly personal and political reasons by a minister who clearly did not follow Mexico’s laws.” Stemm said the exploration licence here was only for research “so they are two completely different situations”. “When I was with Odyssey, we spent tens of millions of dollars looking at potential mineral projects in PNG, Fiji, Vanuatu, Tonga, the Solomon Islands and New Zealand. In each case, it was determined that the potential environmental and other risks were too great, and we walked away with no qualms.”


Tairi Maoate on 26/02/2022

If I was in charge and I lead the country, I would never allow mother earth to be raped any further than we humans have already done. Ozone. Carbon Footprint. Plastic seas. We have lost our way in the Cooks, all because of the Money-chasing. Opened borders. Now this desperate circus. Wake Up Taku ItiTangata. Be More. Do More. Suck Less. Tairi Maoate Ngatangiia