Maori hit at mining survey

By Annette Lambly

A Northland Maori leader says anyone attempting exploratory mining or surveying without the iwi's  permission will be treated as trespassers.
The Government's decision to conduct an aerial magnetic survey of Northland has sparked concerns from Northland Maori leaders and environmentalist groups.
Ngati Kahu runanga chair Professor Margaret Mutu says the native title of Ngati Kahu land had never been extinguished nor the land ever sold.
"The land is ours, not the Crown's and we will make the decisions on what is done with it. If we allow mining there will inevitably be conditions ... and we will be paid for it," she said.
"While I speak on behalf of the iwi, each of the 15 hapu will make their own decision on the land belonging to them."
Ngapuhi runanga chair Raniera "Sonny" Tau says the issue of who owns the minerals is part of a sovereignty claim by the tribe, which is now before the Waitangi Tribunal.
Te Rarawa have also expressed their unhappiness following the Cabinet's decision  to evaluate the region's mineral resources - saying the mining of unprotected conservation land could seriously undermine efforts to settle claims.
Mr Tau says the Crown can claim ownership, but Ngapuhi never ceded authority over their lands or what lay beneath them.
While he agreed mining could bring jobs, he felt the impact on the environment would be disastrous and long-term.
Fears the Far North's Te Paki Ecological District, a large proportion of which is a Recreation Reserve with no biodiversity protection, could also be under threat have been expressed by Forest and Bird and the Worldwide Fund for Nature.
Both groups reject Energy and Resource Minister Gerry  Brownlee's claims that New Zealanders have given the minerals sector a clear mandate to explore and mine non-schedule four land.
"The consultation did not ask about prospecting in the rest of New Zealand, and the public opposition does not imply New Zealanders have given a green light for prospecting in other conservation areas," said WWF-New Zealand executive director Chris Howe.
GNS Science, the Government research agency that will conduct the magnetic survey, says countries such as Australia have mapped their entire landmass in this way and gained thriving industries as a result.
It  says the survey of Northland  will also yield useful information for seismologists, councils and road builders.
These sentiments are also expressed by Far North Mayor Wayne Brown and Northland Regional Council chairman Mark Farnsworth, who believe that if managed correctly, mineral mining could significantly boost the Northland economy.
The  councils are contributing $100,000 each to the aeromagnetic survey.
New Zealand Minerals Industry Association chief executive Doug Gordon has cited studies in Northland which had shown 2700 jobs could be created and a 6 per cent increase in the region's GDP could be achieved.

- Northern Advocate

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