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Privileged Position for Mining Should End

Privileged Position for Mining Should End

Forest and Bird is calling on the government to implement its 1999 and 2002 election policy to end mining's privileged position in gaining access to conservation land and implement its election promises to enable public consultation on mining activities.

Conservation Minister Chris Carter is expected to announce shortly his decision on an application by Pike River Coal Company to access conservation land for what would become New Zealand's second largest coal mine.

"If the Pike mine was a tourism lodge or a grazing concession, members of the public would have the chance to make submissions and have their say at a hearing. The Department and the Minister would have to consider people's views on whether such structures and activities were appropriate on public conservation land," said Forest and Bird Conservation Manager, Kevin Hackwell.

"The public are excluded from Ministerial decisions on all mining access applications. There is no public submission process under conservation legislation despite mining's severe and often permanent destruction of conservation values," he said.

"Labour promised to tackle this problem in its 1999 and 2002 election policy. Five years later nothing has changed."

"The Pike mine involves drilling four tunnels through the impressive sandstone escarpment on the Paparoa National Park boundary. Mining underneath the escarpment risks it cracking and slumping especially after an earthquake. A major 12 kilometre road corridor is to be bulldozed through the Saxon Ecological Area and up Pike valley, all on conservation land. There has been no opportunity for the public, whose land this is, to be formally consulted. This has to change," Mr Hackwell said.

"There are 75 approved mining licences and mining access arrangements on conservation land on the West Coast. These affect around 9,000 ha of public protected land. Yet under conservation legislation (which has different objectives from the Resource Management Act) the public have not been consulted on any of them."

Note to media In the Labour Party's Conservation policy for the 1999 and 2002 elections included commitments to: "* Ensure that the Conservation Act 1987 and the Crown Minerals Act 1991 provide adequate protection from mining activities for areas of significant conservation value.

"* Amend the Crown Minerals Act and the Conservation Act to establish an appropriate public process for consideration of prospecting, exploration and mining applications on conservation land not covered by the mineral activity ban, as occurs with other commercial activities such as tourism and recreational concessions."[1] <\l >

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