James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Greens 'hijacking Waihi compo talks'

Protestors marched on Newmont Waihi Gold's office yesterday to raise concerns about the mining company's expansion plans on the Coromandel Peninsula.  Photo / Alan Gibson
Protestors marched on Newmont Waihi Gold's office yesterday to raise concerns about the mining company's expansion plans on the Coromandel Peninsula. Photo / Alan Gibson

The Green Party is being accused of politicking and hijacking compensation negotiations between Newmont Waihi Gold and the local community.

But local MP Catherine Delahunty says there is widespread disapproval of the multinational company prospecting throughout the Coromandel Peninsula and people see Waihi as "an object-lesson".

Placard-waving protesters who had arrived from Tauranga to Colville marched on Newmont Waihi Gold's office yesterday to raise concerns about the company's expansion plans for its operations on the peninsula.

Ms Delahunty said there were concerns that Newmont had permits to explore for gold in over 40,000ha of land in the Coromandel - including in areas of Schedule 4 conservation land.

She accused the Government of colluding with Newmont. "The Government is doing its best to facilitate multinational expanding into our areas ... Basically in 2010 we thought we had won the battle but the Government is colluding with Newmont.

"Waihi is an object-lesson for the rest of the Coromandel. No one wants a huge pit in the middle of their town."

Ms Delahunty said mining was an unsustainable "finite industry" and would affect the peninsula's $360 million-a-year tourism industry.

But Newmont spokesman Sefton Darby accused Ms Delahunty and the 100-strong group of protesters of politicking which was eroding the goodwill the company had built up with the Waihi community.

"It's a strategy based on confrontation and slogans instead of dialogue."

Soon after accepting anti-mining petitions with hundreds of signatures from throughout the peninsula from former Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, Mr Darby said Newmont's activities would continue.

"Certainly we are not permitted by law to suddenly go mining ... Obviously we are searching with intent but our chances of success are pretty low."

He said the mining and tourism industries were not mutually exclusive but people continually under-estimated mining's impact on the local economy. "There's been this phrase that 70,000 people go to see the Kauaeranga Valley visitors' centre - well, every one of them would have to spend more than $1500 before they came close to the annual revenue generated by this mine."

Distressed Residents Action Team spokeswoman Collette Spalding of Waihi said the protesters had a right to be heard. She doubted that their actions would affect a recent compensation offer some Waihi residents had received from Newmont.

Under the plan, affected homeowners would receive compensation for mining activities depending on how close they lived to the project area.

They could also get payments for any damage to their properties and the company has also offered to buy out a limited number of affected houses each year, covering legal and moving costs.

The company has also proposed a top-up scheme to ensure those affected would receive market price for their homes if they wanted to sell.

Ms Spalding said residents were reviewing the package and were seeking a panel of independent experts to advise on their situation.

- NZ Herald

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