The Green Party has written to the Prime Minister on the eve of the Pacific Islands Forum calling on the Government to support a moratorium on deep sea mining.
“New Zealand must align itself with Pacific leadership and announce at the Pacific Islands Forum its support for a moratorium on deep sea mining under the high seas,” says Teanau Tuiono, Green Party Pasifika spokesperson.
“The ocean is the foundation of shared Pasifika cultural and historical identities. It links communities in Aotearoa to our island homelands. Pacific peoples are the ocean, and the ocean is us.
“But right now, mining by large corporations poses a huge threat to the health of the vast blue Pacific. If these companies are allowed to move in and start taking what they want from the ocean, it could sever the deep connection we have to one another, forever.
“Time is running out. Last year, Nauru triggered a fast-track process that could see mining begin as early as July 2023. But rather than backing a moratorium that would stop this from happening, the New Zealand Government has consistently said that it wants to negotiate for high environmental standards that would apply to the mining industry.
“The next phase of these negotiations is due to start later this month. However the way things are going the standards will not be strong enough - yet seabed mining could still start next year. In fact, we’re not even sure these standards can be made robust enough. Research published earlier this year suggests it may not be possible to manage the environmental effects of deep sea mining.
“Aotearoa New Zealand must stand with our Pacific neighbours at the Pacific Island Forum and begin the shift away from industrial exploitation of our ocean towards long-term protection. Palau, Fiji and Samoa – via the Alliance Against Deep Sea Mining – and Chile, the Federated States of Micronesia, Tuvalu and France, have all come out in support of a moratorium on deep sea mining. Aotearoa New Zealand must now do the same.
“With more and more Pacific nations calling for a moratorium, the New Zealand Government is increasingly out of step with our Pacific whānau. The Green Party is urging the Government to change course and support a moratorium,” says Teanau Tuiono.
Green Party oceans and fisheries spokesperson, Eugenie Sage added, “Without urgent action, we could be on the verge of making a catastrophic mistake by allowing deep sea mining to start. Seamounts, hotspots of marine life are already under pressure from overfishing and climate change, may be targeted. Fragile ecosystems could be lost forever. And our relationship with the vast blue ocean, so much a part of Pacific identity and wellbeing, may never be the same.
“Speaking in Australia on Thursday, the Prime Minister made clear that New Zealand was a part of the Pacific family. She also called for cooperation among "those for whom the region really is home” and highlighted the need to recognise the independence of Pacific nations,” she said.
“Upholding the mana of Pacific states has previously been the basis for the Government’s refusal to support a moratorium on the harmful and untested practice of deep sea mining. Back in 2021, officials told Ministers that “our approach to deep sea mining must recognise the mana of each Pacific Island country.”
“Trying to negotiate a regulatory regime that would still allow deepsea mining to start from July 2023, is a huge risk. If the Government is serious about applying the principles of cooperation, then the only option is for the Government to immediately announce its support for a moratorium on deep sea mining under the high seas,” says Eugenie Sage.
“These areas of ocean beyond national jurisdiction are places that all of humanity has responsibility for. Nation states can exercise their independence in their domestic waters. We have collective responsibility to protect our common ocean heritage on and under the high seas - international waters.”