Forest & Bird has mounted a court challenge over a decision by the Buller District Council to allow an open-cast coalmine on 100ha of public reserve land behind Westport township.

The Buller District Council has granted permission to Rangatira Developments Ltd to develop a mine at Te Kuha on nearly 100ha of public water conservation reserve.

The proposed mine would employ 64 people and pump $20 million annually in the Buller economy. The developer is also talking about adding an activated carbon plant.

Buller Mayor Garry Howard said today he could not comment as it was an active resource consent matter.

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The coalmine would be visible from Westport and the Lower Buller Gorge.

"This ridgeline is one of the last remnants of the outstanding Buller plateau landscape, and is home to threatened bird and lizard species including the great spotted kiwi, the South Island fernbird and the West Coast green gecko," Forest and Bird chief executive Kevin Hague said.

"This is yet another example of nature being 'up for grabs'. Our natural heritage, held in public reserves, is being turned over to developers for private gain."

Forest and Bird believes that in granting access to the reserve, the council has not acted legally under the Reserves Act 1977, and yesterday filed in the High Court at Christchurch to ask for a judicial review of the decision.

Section 23 of the Reserves Act requires that the council administer the water conservation reserve in a manner consistent with its purpose.

As well as the water conservation reserve Rangatira Developments Ltd is awaiting approval to access 12ha of public conservation land within the mine footprint.

- Greymouth Star