West Coast local authorities are calling for a bigger slice of mining profits to be put back into local communities with increased royalties on coal and gold.
Buller District Council chief executive Paul Wylie yesterday told MPs that infrastructure investment funded through increased royalties or through charging rates on mining operations on Crown land was necessary to prevent yet another boom and bust cycle in the region.
Parliament's commerce committee yesterday began hearing submissions on the Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Bill, which the Government hopes will encourage more mining by streamlining some regulatory requirements.
Mr Wylie told the committee his council supported the bill but was concerned that when the current coalmining boom in the region ended, Westport would once again go into decline.
The council was committed to taking advantage of the mining boom to develop a sustainable local economy so Westport and the surrounding area had a future after mining, he said.
The key was fostering a permanent population base rather than a transient one based around mining. "If we can get people to become permanent residents, industry will diversify around them."
Increased investment in Westport's infrastructure was crucial to making the town an attractive permanent home.
To fund that investment in Westport and other West Coast towns, the Buller District Council and other regional authorities proposed trebling the current royalties on coal and gold.
A third of the money raised would be set aside in an infrastructure fund for local projects administered by the Ministry of Economic Development.
Mr Wylie estimated the plan would generate about $3 million to $4 million each year from West Coast mining alone.
An alternative plan was to allow councils to charge rates on mining operations on Crown land which they cannot do under current legislation.
Energy and Resources Minister Phil Heatley said that although the Government was reviewing mining royalties, it was not contemplating a "regional royalty".
But ring-fencing a proportion of royalties for investment in local infrastructure was an "interesting" idea.
"That might be an ongoing conversation we have with councils."