Life goes on in Waihi with acceptance of mining

By Sam Boyer


Waihi locals say they are happy with the presence of the mine in their town, despite protesters' calls to limit mining operations in the Coromandel.

Locals say the mine is "a reality of life" in Waihi and simply part of the town fabric.

This follows a Greens-organised protest on Monday which saw a 100-strong crowd with placards, banners and t-shirts march on the offices of Newmont Waihi Gold in reaction to proposed mining expansions in the Coromandel.

Coromandel Watchdog co-ordinator Renee Annan, who spoke at the march, said the protesters - including Greens MP Catherine Delahunty and former MP Jeanette Fitzsimons - stood against Department of Conservation land being mined in the Coromandel and the expansion of Newport's activities in Waihi. But the majority of locals were happy to have the mine operating in their town, Waihi Ward councillor Sel Baker said. "I think they will all say it's part of the town, part of the community. I don't think there's support for banning the mine because there are economic benefits. But they don't want economic benefits at the expense of the town. They want to see that their rights are protected. There are a few things that bother them - that's the vibrations, the noise sometimes, and the dust.

I think if those things were minimised, most people would be accepting of mining in the town," Mr Baker said. Waihi Fire Service chief fire officer Moe Stevens said the mine was an important part of the history and make-up of Waihi.

"Waihi was founded as a mining town. I'm coming up 67 [years old] and it was here when I grew up. Most of the people in Waihi, I would assume, don't have a problem with it. It's provided an immense amount of jobs here," he said.

Newmont Waihi Gold has operated in the Coromandel-Hauraki area for more than 25 years and is the direct employer of just under 400 people as well as being responsible for another 300-400 jobs among businesses linked to the mining operation, Newmont's external affairs manager Sefton Darby said.

" We currently employ close to 400 people in our operations in Waihi, and economic impact assessments in the past have shown that for every person employed directly by the mine, another person is employed as a result of work that we generate or because of the money that our employees spend," he said.

Brian Gentil, Go Waihi co-ordinator, said the work at the mines and Newmont's plans to expand has created a lot of talk in the town, but not a lot of dissent from locals. "You've got those who are anti, and those who don't mind. It [the mine] is part of life in Waihi," he said.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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