Between Antarctic ice melting faster than predicted, expanding plastic gyres and the Trump administration rolling back all kinds of environmental protections, the earth has been in need of a win as of late. Luckily, New Zealand’s High Court came bearing good news yesterday when they ruled in favor of environmental groups appealing a 2017 Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) decision that would have allowed seabed mining off the coast of South Taranaki.
Sure, when you examine the practice of seabed mining, in which giant underwater bulldozers tear up the seafloor and leave vast plumes of ecosystem-destroying sediment in their wake (for more on that, check out our feature on New Zealand’s fight against seabed mining from our annual big issue here), the High Court’s decision to bar the practice seems obvious. But, considering the fact that New Zealand’s own EPA decided in favor of the controversial mining permit last year, it seemed that all bets were well and truly off when hearings began back in April.
The High Court case, in which 11 appellants--including Kiwis Against Seabed Mining, Greenpeace, local Maori groups and more--fought to overturn the decision, marks a milestone for the coalition of ocean activists, some of whom have been fighting the practice of seabed mining for over a decade.
"This is a victory for the thousands of people who have protested and the 13,000 who made submissions against this awful proposal, a victory for the South Taranaki Bight, the blue whales and the entire New Zealand marine ecosystem," said Cindy Baxter, Chairperson of Kiwis Against Seabed Mining in a statement released yesterday.
Large mining companies will likely continue to look for avenues to mine the seafloor both in New Zealand and elsewhere, as the valuable metals found in the seabed and the interest of some parties in exploiting them aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. But either way, yesterday’s High Court decision sets a strong precedent against the practice and gives ocean lovers of all stripes a good reason to celebrate.