'They don't care about our environment' - Tuiono joins calls to protect Pacific

By James Perry

Green Party MP Teanau Tuiono says the Pacific needs more support to protect the ocean from the effects of profit-hunting multinational companies.

Last week the Pacific Parliamentarians Alliance on Deep Sea Mining, a group of politicians from across the Pacific who have called for a moratorium on deep-sea mining, was launched.

He says the multinational companies need to be challenged on their motives and behaviour in the Pacific but they also need to have some political power behind them.

The alliance includes former Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga and is chaired by the opposition leader in Vanuatu, Ralph Regenavnu.

"So there are a lot of people across the islands supporting this cause. But everyone needs support and that's what's ahead of us," he told Te Ao Māori News.

He says the history of the Pacific is littered with multinational corporations who only have one focus "and that's money. 

Nauru phosphate

"They don't care about our environment. We saw that when phosphate was mined in Nauru. They get what they want then leave. The same is done by commercial fishermen." 

He adds the concern with deep-sea mining, particularly in the Pacific Ocean, is the depth of the world's largest ocean, which includes depths of around 10km in parts and the unknown effects drilling has.

"We don't know what's down there. If it breaks, it affects the environment and that affects us all. This has happened in the Pacific and that's why we're cautious about this."

The Pacific Parliamentary Alliance is positioning itself as the "indigenous custodians of the vast ocean".

“We must acknowledge the unprecedented threats and damage from people - overfishing, pollution, plastics, nuclear waste, biodiversity loss, ocean warming and acidification from climate impacts, and rising sea levels.

“This exploitation holds much responsibility for the realities of many Pacific Islands societies today; realities that serve to shrink our options and entice our countries to repeat unsustainable patterns of economic development,” Tuiono said at the launch on Friday.

Indigenous power

He added that precedents in Aotearoa have shown the power of political and indigenous leadership can have, in particular Taranaki iwi standing up to corporations seeking to mine ironsands.

"I acknowledge Ngāti Ruanui, Rāuru Kī Tahi, and my sister Debbie Ngarewa Packer. She took a bill to Parliament, so we've seen it and it's happened in the Pacific. We have to support each other. If the environment survives we survive."