Submission on the Mining in Schedule 4 Discussion Document

I am writing this submission as an individual citizen, albeit one who has had many years of tramping experience in National Parks, and was once regularly involved in taking groups of teenagers on day-tramps, as part of a ‘provincial experience’ during school holiday camps.

My key concerns about this discussion document are that removal of lands from conservation is unacceptable. I feel that this is a short-term measure that our children and grandchildren will revile our generation for taking. I am also very concerned that land which is promoted as being ‘added’ to schedule 4 by this discussion document is actually already gazetted for conservation, and is not any genuine attempt by the Government to extend the lands in conservation.

My specific concerns are as follows (referring to sections as named in the discussion document):

In Section 4: Areas proposed to be removed from Schedule 4 – the 7000ha to be removed from Schedule 4 immediately, so that mining can be considered on a ‘case by case’ basis – these areas all have a high tourism value, which is an ongoing income stream, as well as conservation, recreation and cultural values, which outweigh their potential for one-off income stream through mining. Schedule 4 protection should be permanent, and not subject to removal.

In Section 7: Specific areas proposed for removal from Schedule 4;
Te Ahumata Plateau on Great Barrier Island – the island is a near-pristine gem in the Hauraki Gulf, highly valued by the small community who live there, and is a valued holiday and recreational retreat for the Aucklanders on its doorstep, and tourists generally. Mining would do irreparable harm to the local residents’ quality of life, and the island’s reputation and tourism industry. I oppose removing this area from Schedule 4.
Sections of Conservation land on the Coromandel Peninsula – this is another diverse region with high conservation values, containing significant tracts of intact forest and threatened species. The Coromandel also has huge value as a wild and natural region close to major population centres, providing scenic and recreation opportunities. Conservation lands in the Coromandel deserve to stay in Schedule 4 to protect the ecological, tourism, and recreational values of this unique peninsula. As a child, this was a place that my family visited, driving from southern Hawkes Bay every summer to share a bach owned by the family my parents worked for; I learnt to swim here, learnt what a rip was, and how to survive being tumbled in a strong current. I learned to enjoy this environment without destroying the allure of nature that we returned for every year, the counterpoint to living in an isolated farming district. For much of my adult life, ‘summer’ is always a concept that I define by the Coromandel summers; any other place is rated by how it compares to this definitive experience. I would consider it treasonous for the Government to destroy this kind of heritage, for a few seasons’ worth of minerals, and I attempt to stop this so that I will be able to look my grandchildren in the eyes when I tell them stories of my childhood summers. I oppose removing this area from Schedule 4.
Otahu and Parakawai Ecological Area in the Coromandel – These areas, in addition to having all the attributes of the areas above, are home to the North Island Brown Kiwi, long-tailed bats, Hochstetter’s frogs, longfin eels, and banded kokopu. This habitat should not be removed from Schedule 4.
The Inangahua sector of Paproa National Park on the South Island’s West Coast – Paparoa National Park has outstanding ecological and landscape values. The Government’s interest in open-cast mining in this area is irresponsible, as climate change emissions will be significant. I oppose removing this area from Schedule 4.

In Section 5: Further investigation programme – this is tax-payer subsidisation of the mining industry, as they are the beneficiaries of the information the Government seeks to uncover. Conservation land is for protection, not exploitation – this investigation can only lead to more proposals for mining on conservation land, including Schedule 4 areas. Abandon the further investigation programme.

In Section 6.1: Joint Ministerial approval – This is inappropriate, as it entails handing over decision-making power over activities on conservation land to a development-focussed Minister. Reject joint Ministerial approval for access to Crown Land, leaving such decisions with the land-owning Minister.

In Section 8: Areas proposed for addition to schedule 4 – these are areas already gazetted, and while a positive step, these additions would have occurred anyway, and are long overdue. They do not ‘offset’ removals, and furthermore, these additions should be automatic whenever new lands are gazetted in to National Parks and the other land classification types listed in Schedule 4. I support the addition of new lands to Schedule 4, and the amendment of the Crown Minerals Act to make such additions automatic.

In Section 9: Establishment of a contestable conservation fund – Conservation management should be funded from the core budget of DoC, which should be re-instated to pre-2009 levels. Abandon the contestable conservation fund, restore the Greens’ $4million per annum Community Conservation fund (cut in 2009), and reinstate DoC’s 2009 budget cut of $54 million. I oppose any possibility that mining companies might receive funding to carry out remediation work on mined land, that is work they should have to do anyway in order to get mining permits.

There are also other areas which are not covered by Schedule 4, including national reserves such as Lewis Pass, and all of our World Heritage areas (Te Wahipounamu, Tongariro and the Sub-Antarctic Islands) – I recommend that these areas be added to Schedule 4.

In summary, I would like to re-iterate that New Zealand’s public conservation land is far too precious to mine. I heartily recommend a radical re-think of this document, as the Ministry of Economic Development has seriously underestimated the esteem with which the New Zealand public regard our wild and untrammelled places. These are, after all, the heritage that have been left to us by ancestors who wisely left some places of beauty, some places of refuge for the flora and fauna of our land, whose stewardship should be given at least the respect of serious consideration before these last refuges are destroyed for the dubious and temporary rewards of commerce.

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