Continued mining will boost jobs - local MPs

By Edward Gay

National's Northland and West Coast MPs John Carter, left, and Chris Auchinvole. Photos / Northern Advocate, Supplied
National's Northland and West Coast MPs John Carter, left, and Chris Auchinvole. Photos / Northern Advocate, Supplied

While environmental groups have expressed concern that mining is still on the Government's agenda, local MPs are hopeful mining in Northland and on the West Coast will boost jobs.

The Government today announced Northland and the West Coast will be explored for minerals, despite the Government backing down on plans to mine pristine parts of the conservation estate in the Coromandel, Paparoa and on Great Barrier Island.

Northland MP John Carter, of the National Party, welcomed the job creation any mining would bring.

"I'm sure that the people of Northland will be pleased with the employment opportunities that may arise out of it as a consequence of the surveys that are being done," he said.

"It's a positive for us. It's a great opportunity for Northland to contribute more than we do to the rest of New Zealand."

West Coast National MP Chris Auchinvole expected the region would embrace increased mining in the area, albeit outside of schedule four land.

The economy, environment, community and mining companies all had to be considered when reaching the right balance for the West Coast, and he believed his region had achieved that balance.

Thames mayor Phillippa Barriball told Newstalk ZB she wants the Government to let residents know what minerals are in the ground, so they understand what they are giving up by opposing mining in the Coromandel.

However, she also said locals are sick of the debate and want mining issues solved once and for all.

"I would love to know that it was set in stone and not sitting in a schedule that can be reviewed by any government at any time in the future. I think the community is sick of actually having this debate and I would just like to see it finalised one way or the other," Ms Barriball said.

Mining still on cards despite u-turn

A magnetic aerial survey in Northland and the West Coast was given the go-ahead by the cabinet today, said Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee and it is "highly likely" that more mining will happen.

Mr Brownlee told reporters today that the kauri forests of Northland would remain untouched but that some aerial surveys would take place on Department of Conservation land.

He said the survey would be carried out with the help of the Northland Regional and Far North District Councils.

"Quite clearly they see an opportunity in their backyard that they are interested in progressing," Mr Brownlee said.

The two Councils have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Economic Development and will each put in $100,000 to the $2 million cost of the survey.

The survey will cover 12,480 square kilometres, or 1.25million hectares, in Northland Mr Brownlee said he expected announcements from the mining industry in the coming months about new areas that could be opened up.

"There will be an escalation of activity in those areas, the West Coast of the South Island and other parts of the country," Mr Brownlee said.

Environmental concerns persist

Greenpeace climate campaigner Simon Boxer said protests would take place if mining went back on the Government agenda.

He said the march in Auckland earlier this year included many National voters and the Government had not "learned their lesson".

He said the Government was giving a leg up to mining companies by paying for surveys when it should be supporting Kiwi world leaders in the geothermal and solar industry.

Environment Defence Society chairman Gary Taylor said he would be looking closely at any areas where prospecting in planned.

He said mining companies would still look to the Department of Conservation estate as possible areas to mine.

"It's back to business as usual," Mr Taylor said.

But he said the u-turn on Schedule Four land showed a "new green awareness" in the National-led Government.

"The decision to lock down all National Parks from future mining is especially noteworthy and principled. We now have a national consensus, a compact between Government and the people that recognises the primacy of conservation in all our National Parks. It means we won't have to argue about mining in National Parks again," Mr Taylor said.

Labour leader Phil Goff the Government had taken a "humiliating u-turn" in declaring Schedule Four land off limits to mining.

"They got it completely wrong. New Zealanders did not want to see their pristine conservation estate and their National Parks dug up for mines. There wasn't the support for it. This is a humiliating backdown."

He rejected the idea that the Government had listened to the public.

"They haven't changed their values. They believe in digging up our national parks, but they've got the message from the public that this is absolutely unacceptable. It's not listening, it's being forced to change," Mr Goff said Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei said the Government's announcement was a "victory for commonsense".

"You look after the things you love, and thousands of New Zealanders have reminded John Key of this simple truth over the last year. As a result, we've changed the agenda on mining in New Zealand."

"The Green Party's petition to protect National Parks from mining was signed by more than 47,000 New Zealanders, while 42,000 made submissions on the mining plans to the Ministry of Economic Development. A further 40,000 marched down Auckland's Queen St in May to protest the plans," Ms Turei said.

Mr Brownlee said the Government's discussion document was always a discussion and the Cabinet had no preconceptions.

Over 37,000 submissions were received by the Government and the vast majority - some 32,000 - were against removing conservation land from Schedule Four.

Mr Brownlee said the Government was open to what the people of New Zealand had to say and that the discussion was useful.

"We have an industry that has been neglected for many years, 40 per cent of the Crown's known mineral reserves lie in Schedule Four, so for us to ignore that would have been inappropriate.

"I don't see it as a back down. I see it as a proper response to a process.

Mr Brownlee has previously said that mining was one of the key differences between the economies of New Zealand and Australia.

He said today that the 7000 hectares proposed for mining in the Government's discussion document would not be a "silver bullet" for the country's economy.

Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson said 14 new areas, or 12,000 hectares will be added to Schedule Four, including the new kauri park in Northland.

She said future National Parks and Marine Reserves will be protected under Schedule Four.

Ms Wilkinson said the Conservation fund announced by the Government as part of its discussion document has been canned. The Government had proposed to collect revenue from mining operations on Crown land to pay for conservation projects.

- with NZPA

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