Key asks public to wait and see over mining proposals

Some reports on the government's plans to open up more conservation land to mining have been "hysterical" and the public should reserve judgment until they see what is on the table, Prime Minister John Key said today.Forest and Bird yesterday said the government was planning to allow mining in 7000 hectares of high-value conservation land in the West Coast's Paparoa National Park, Great Barrier Island and the Coromandel Peninsula.

Some reports on the government's plans to open up more conservation land to mining have been "hysterical" and the public should reserve judgment until they see what is on the table, Prime Minister John Key said today.

Forest and Bird yesterday said the government was planning to allow mining in 7000 hectares of high-value conservation land in the West Coast's Paparoa National Park, Great Barrier Island and the Coromandel Peninsula.

The government last year carried out a stocktake of minerals in the conservation estate, and is looking at taking parts of it out of Schedule 4 in the Crown Minerals Act, which protects the estate from mining.

Mr Key refused to confirm or deny the report and said some information might have been leaked, but that did not necessarily mean it was correct or would be in the final document.

"Some areas that were considered (by officials) would never be acceptable to Cabinet, but the minister has a responsibility to look at all of those issues as they put together the discussion document," he said.

"In due course we will release that discussion document and that will be an opportunity for people to reflect on whether we have got the balance right, for us to take some soundings from various interested parties. Once we have done that, that will then set up whether there is increased mining activity in New Zealand."

When the discussion document was released it would be clear what was on the table, but Mr Key said it was wider than just the debate over schedule four land.

"What is important is not to narrow the debate to solely schedule four... it is important to recognise that only a third of conservation land is schedule four land, there is actually quite a lot of land not schedule four land but sits within the conservation estate," Mr Key said

"We are not ruling out schedule four land, we are just saying the discussion document is likely to be a broader discussion."

The Government wanted to balance the economic benefits from some increased mining activity and environmental responsibilities.

Some of the media reports on the issue had been "hysterical" and the government was carefully working through what was an "important issue."

Mr Key said National had polled earlier this year or late last year on whether there should be more mining in New Zealand and over 50 percent supported it.

Forest and Bird spokesman Kevin Hackwell yesterday said the organisation had "learnt" the Government was looking at allowing mining in:

* Te Ahumata plateau on Great Barrier Island (about 700ha);

* Otahu Ecological Area (396ha) and Parakawai Geological Reserve (70ha) near Whangamata on the Coromandel and 2500ha near Thames township; and

* Eastern Paparoa National Park, near Inangahua on the West Coast (3000ha)

Mr Hackwell said also under the schedule four stocktake, nearly half a million hectares of other prime conservation areas will be surveyed for mining potential, including Kahurangi National Park, Mt Aspiring National Park, Stewart Island's Rakiura National Park and nearly all the conservation land in the Coromandel Peninsula.

Mr Hackwell said all the areas have outstanding ecological and landscape value, which was why they had been protected from mining.

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