West Coasters want slice of any mining royalty hike

By Tui Bromley of the Greymouth Star

Some West Coast community leaders say the region should get an extra slice of any increased mining royalties charged by the Government. Photo / NZPA
Some West Coast community leaders say the region should get an extra slice of any increased mining royalties charged by the Government. Photo / NZPA

West Coasters want any increase in coal and goldmining royalties handed back to the district of origin.

Bumping up royalties is among recommendations in a review of the Crown Minerals Act.

The review, which is open for public submission, aims to streamline the regime and ensure better coordination of regulatory agencies.

West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O'Connor said the mining industry had taken enough from the West Coast and it was time it started to pay it back, not take more.

"Before the National Government screws down the mining industry it should give some thought to the local communities who have to pay for and maintain the infrastructures that support it," he said.

"In New Zealand the general ratepayer and taxpayer stumps up all the infrastructure - roading, sewerage and water systems - that support the mining industry, but in some states of Australia the mining companies pay for every single part of the town's infrastructure.

"I think the mining companies should sit down with the district and regional councils and work out a fairer and more consistent payment system."

O'Connor said Solid Energy had, since 1999, been contributing a reasonable amount to the communities but its delivery had been erratic.

"The councils deserve a better understanding of what they can expect on an annual basis and it's in the interests of the mining companies to help grow the infrastructures."

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn, who has long pushed for a portion of the coal levies to come back to the Coast, supports an increase in levies but only if it comes back to the region.

"I'm all for it if government does not take one cent of the extra money, but if it's just going into the consolidated fund, forget it," he said.

"Any revenue from the mining industry should be given to the district it comes from, as occurs in Australia and some states in America.

"Here's an opportunity for the Government to be genuine on its claims of looking out for the environment. They should give the royalties back to the regions so they can look after the environment properly."

Solid Energy's chief executive Don Elder, while sympathetic to the plight of the regions, said imposing further royalties was not the answer.

Citing the under-performing Spring Creek mine as an example, Elder said an increase in royalties would serve as a disincentive to investment in a "high risk" industry.

"Slapping royalties on something like Spring Creek only makes it less likely," he said, noting that the Dunollie mine had been 10 years in the making and was still some way off peak production.

Minerals West Coast director and owner of the Grey River gold dredge Allan Birchfield, said he would be opposing the move.

"If they are trying to create employment and economic wealth, you would think that they would be making it easier, not harder on the licence holders.

"I think we pay enough now."


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