The Government is planning a stocktake of valuable minerals in the conservation estate but it isn't going to dig up pristine landscape, Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee says.

Conservation land is protected by Schedule Four of the Crown Minerals Act and Brownlee said he wasn't considering changing the legislation.

"What we're looking at is the type of land that needs to be in Schedule Four," he told reporters yesterday.

"All we're saying is there may be some places where the conservation values of the land are significantly less than the high standard put on Schedule Four."

The Labour Party isn't accepting his assurances and says the Government is moving to mine coal and lignite in the conservation estate.

"Why didn't the Government tell New Zealand prior to the election that it was their intention to allow mining in New Zealand's conservation areas?" said conservation spokesman David Parker.

"Coal and lignite mines are enormous. Allowing increased mining in the DOC (Department of Conservation) estate, or allowing it at all in National Parks, is lunacy."

Brownlee mentioned the stocktake at a mining conference in Queenstown yesterday.

He said today there seemed to be "a degree of panic" about it which was not warranted.

The estimated value of untapped minerals in New Zealand has been put at about $140 billion and around 70 per cent of that involves conservation land.

"New Zealand has some of the most pristine landscape in the world. It is recognised in Schedule Four of the Crown Minerals Act as being impenetrable," said Brownlee.

"What we're saying is where there are new lands added to that we need to balance both aspects of economic and conservation values.

"But we certainly have no intention of digging up the Crown's conservation estate. This is a stocktake, which is perfectly reasonable."

He said the previous government spent nine years explaining the economic gap between Australia and New Zealand was because of Australia's mineral wealth.

"What New Zealanders need to know is that New Zealand is similarly endowed," he said.

"It's going to be a very public process."

NZPA