Jamie Morton is the NZ Herald's science reporter.

Homeowners demand miner pays compo

Newmont Waihi Gold's underground Favona mine at Waihi. Photo / Richard Robinson
Newmont Waihi Gold's underground Favona mine at Waihi. Photo / Richard Robinson

Cash compensation, a new dairy and an annual fireworks display are being demanded by a Waihi community group in response to an American mining giant's proposal for a vast mine development beneath the town.

Residents have been meeting over Newmont Waihi Gold's proposed Correnso mine in the east of the town, to be built at depths of between 130m and 350m.

The expansion, with a exploration programme beneath the Martha open pit, is expected to pump a further $700 million into the region.

But the bold plan has been met with fear among some residents whose properties may be affected.

About 31 properties are directly above the proposed mine and 15 immediately adjacent to it, and the company has signalled it will continue to offer special payments for people closest to the operations.

At one public meeting last month, about 120 locals packed into a hall on the same night as the Rugby World Cup opened. When a Newmont spokesman told the gathering how the company needed to hear what residents wanted, a number of people called out: "Buy my house".

One community group, the Distressed Residents Action Team, has stepped forward with a detailed list of conditions addressing issues such as noise, dust, insurance, areas to improve on, and compensation for the several hundred households with mining licences attached to their certificate of title.

The recommendations included compensation for property owners living in or next to underground mine zones by either relocating their families to another home within 100km of the town, moving their homes to a provided section, or buying their homes at market value.

Each of the options would involve additional $100,000 payouts, as well as an extra $50,000 for those who left the area because they could not get insurance or mortgage services.

Affected property owners who opted to stay would receive annual payments of $25,000, as well as value-adding maintenance work on their homes over the life of the mine.

The group said it also wanted the company to buy up houses as they became available, "rather than allow some unsuspecting buyer to move into a situation they may well regret".

"We want security for people who own their own homes already - and we don't want people coming to Waihi to invest in something and find something they hadn't anticipated," group spokeswoman Collette Spalding told the Herald yesterday.

Many residents had reacted with anger to the plan - with some calling for the entire mine to be shut down - but most just wanted security, Ms Spalding said.

One dying man had spent his final weeks worrying he would be leaving his wife a worthless asset, she said.

"He shouldn't have been in the position where he had to talk about it as a subject, he should have been just spending time with his family."

She said her group was not anti-mining, but it would fight the plan if the company did not come forward with favourable policies.

"If they've got a decent policy for us that everyone is going to be safe by, then no one is going to be putting in submissions," she said.

The group also wants the company to further invest in Waihi with additions such as a new superette, a jewellery school and an annual fireworks display.

Newmont external affairs manager Sefton Darby said it was too early to comment on the terms.

The company expected to hear more proposals from several other community groups and would have a draft policy before Christmas.

$100,000 payouts, plus an extra $50,000 for those who leave the area.
Affected property owners who opt to stay to get $25,000 a year, plus maintenance work

- NZ Herald

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