NZ missing out in world of mining Northland mayor

By Peter de Graaf

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Far North Mayor Wayne Brown says the Government needs to lift its game "big time" if it wants a slice of one of the world's biggest industries.

Mr Brown has just returned from the world's largest mining conference, where he said New Zealand was completely outgunned by Greenland, Mali and Afghanistan - let alone big mining nations like Australia, Canada and the US.

The five-day Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference in Toronto drew more than 30,000 delegates and 1200 exhibitors, yet New Zealand's stand was tiny.

Three "relatively junior" staff from NZ Petroleum and Minerals attended along with two geologists from GNS Science, one of whom gave lectures on New Zealand and Northland. Mr Brown said he was the only Northlander present and Glass Earth the only Kiwi company. NZ Trade and Enterprise did not attend, nor did new Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges.

"If our government wishes to be serious about mining, it will need to lift its game big time," he said.

Mr Brown wrote in a report on the conference that New Zealand had some advantages, such as stable government and appealing lifestyle, but was simply not on the global investment radar.

New Zealand could take lessons from Canada,where earth sciences were part of the school curriculum. It was worth noting that mining was the biggest employer of Canadian First Nations people, who made up 40 per cent of the mining workforce and were moving up through the industry via training and partnership.

New Zealand should send a minister to future conferences along with leaders from Northland, Taranaki and Westland and staff from the new Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

The Government also needed to commit real support to deal with protesters. The withdrawal of Brazilian multinational Petrobras from oil exploration off East Cape "sent a very bad message", he said.

"The public at large, especially urban dwellers, need to be informed of mining's place in modern society. Most city folk get their mining info from Lucy Lawless rather than whoever is the minister."

In January councillors turned down Mr Brown's request to contribute $3000 towards the $9000 cost of the trip. The mayor had proposed splitting the cost between the council, the Northland Economic Advisory Group and himself, but councillors were concerned about a conflict of interest because Mr Brown had recently taken a 5 per cent stake in a new minerals company.

- Northern Advocate

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