The Seabed Minerals Authority (Authority) held a public consultation on the Seabed Minerals Amendment Bill 2020 (Bill) at the New Hope Church on Tuesday 23 June. It was led by the responsible Minister for seabed minerals, Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown, along with Commissioner Alex Herman, and Seabed Minerals Advisor Chris Brown.
The two hour presentation was well-attended by approximately 60 people, including members of parliament, religious leaders, traditional leaders, civil society, government, and members of the public. Of note, was a young Tereora College student who was applauded for not only attending, but also having the courage to ask important questions on capacity building Cook Islanders and regulating industry.
The Authority started the presentation by talking about the Seabed Minerals Act 2019 (Act), its development and the various improvements it made in order to establish a robust regulatory framework for seabed minerals.
The Authority then focused its presentation on key amendments, as well as amendments raised by stakeholders. A copy of the presentation is available here.
The limited amendments were a result of reviewing previous stakeholder feedback, and looking at how the Act and its regulations could best work together. “The amendments we are proposing aim to achieve the purposes of the Act and reflect best practice” Herman said, adding “we are pleased to be able to explain its policy rationale to the public further”.
After the presentation, a lengthy Q&A session followed. Some questions were asked about how seabed activities fit within Marae Moana and marine spatial planning (MSP) processes. The Authority explained that under Marae Moana, the Council and Technical Advisory Group (TAG) are responsible for MSP. The Authority and other government and non-government bodies sit on the TAG, and prepare the MSP. It was noted that this work was currently underway through the Marae Moana Director, Maria Tuoro.
The Marae Moana Act 2017 is the overarching legislation for the ocean. Marae Moana is a zoned, multi-use marine park, which promotes the protection and use of our ocean, and upholds high environmental and conservation principles.
Minister Brown reiterated that “Environmental protection is always at the forefront, we protect our resource for Cook Islanders, and we protect our ocean through strong robust regulatory frameworks”.
In order to ensure that seabed activities were aligned with Marae Moana, new changes were brought into the Act, including requiring the Authority to notify Marae Moana bodies about licence applications. “We have checks and balances within our legislation to ensure that we have these processes operating in unison,” noted Herman.
The last speaker of the night was Bishop Tutai Pere, who, as a member of the Religious Advisory Council (RAC) said “We the RAC are with you and we pray along your path that eventually we finally arrive at the point where we become master of our own destiny. Without a doubt God has blessed our nation.”
Bishop Pere congratulated the government on the work it was doing before closing the evening in prayer.
A video recording of the meeting will be released by the Authority once it is available.
The Authority is presently reviewing all submissions on the Bill to determine whether further amendments are to be recommended to the responsible Minister. The Bill is currently before Parliament.
Enquiries relating to this release can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org.