The Prime Minister, John Key, labelled as "hysterical" the news coverage at the beginning of this week that quoted Forest and Bird revealing Government intentions for mining sensitive Crown land.

He and his Government claimed there were no such intentions; there could not be, they argued, because a review of relevant land was still going on.

Within days, though, the hysteria was on the other foot. With no eye for irony, the Government ordered a State Services Commission investigation into how the information politicians had been so keen to discredit had been "leaked" to the green movement in the first place.

Usually, when governments order officials to pursue leaks, they are embarrassed and angry that their opportunity to control the release of said information has been usurped.

They are also trying to send a witch-hunt warning that leakers will be sprung. In this instance, the Government is in the invidious political position of having denied that something is afoot but also, by acknowledging its existence in order to pursue its leaker, confirming that something is afoot.

It has only itself to blame, after trying to talk from both sides of its mouth whenever the issue of mining on Crown land has been raised.

Either the Energy Minister, Gerry Brownlee, or Mr Key, in his statements to Parliament last month and again this week, have talked up the possibilities of this lever of economic development, but also downplayed its scale to try to defuse environmental concerns.

Scoping the extent of potential mineral deposits is sensible. The double-talk about potential changes as to which Crown land is available for mining is plain silly.

Pretending something isn't being considered when it is and then trying to shut down debate betrays one known symptom of hysteria - selective amnesia.