Crown Minerals Act Review coming, as DoC mining ban delayed
First published in Energy and Environment on November 28
The Government has again said a wider review of the Crown Minerals Act is coming soon with Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods saying it must be “future proofed” to ensure a “just transition”.
The “just transition” is being read by many in the mining sector and environmental movement as winding back activity, but it is not a forgone conclusion. With at least one senior minister saying there has to be room for economic development and one arguing there was a mood in her electorate to enable better used of “black sand” mining.
The comments came in the second reading debate of the Crown Minerals Amendment Bill on Tuesday night. The Bill makes a number of administrative changes, but Woods talked about her wider programme saying the Government is committed to a “just transition to a net zero emissions economy” as signalled by the halting of future oil and gas exploration permits outside onshore Taranaki.
“We acknowledge there is a need to look at the wider Crown Minerals Act and ensure that it is futureproofed to meet the needs of all NZers. That is why we will shortly be undertaking a wider review of the Act, which will involve engaging with iwi and other key stakeholders on how NZ can sustainably derive value from its resources. As I have said publicly, a just transaction means that the existing work programme of permit holders won't be affected, regardless of the decisions that'll been made on the future of the oil and gas industry in NZ. This means that our current regulatory system must continue to effectively manage permits that are currently in place.”
Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta said it was important to have a broader piece of work in relation to the Act “as it relates to iwi interests in these areas. I come from the Waikato and there is a view in the West Coast—certainly in Taharoa, and it's not petroleum but the mining of black sand—that there is a further need to improve the way in which the Act can operate to enable development opportunities in this area. I welcome the next phase of work in relation to the Crown Minerals Act.”
Woods gave no further detail of when the wider review of the Act would begin or the process that would be followed. She and officials have been putting a lot of time and effort into the ‘Just Transition Programme’, much of the focus has been on policy around retraining and income support.
This will not satisfy the mining or petroleum sector who believe the Government is cutting off a sector with a lot to offer economically without seriously compromising its environmental and climate change goals.
In the meantime the Government is running out of time this year to get out a consultation document on the proposed ban on new mining on Department of Conservation land. It was signalled when the Government took office as part of Labour’s deal with the Greens, but an original September deadline has come and gone.
Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has said she hopes to get the consultation underway within months. However, ministers are finding it a bit more complex than first envisaged.
The size of the conservation estate and the variety of land encompassed in it is a problem for other ministers, most notably NZ First’s Shane Jones. He is already frustrated that some stewardship land of less marginal environmental value is not being freed up for economic development including forestry.
Several areas in the conservation estate (outside National Parks) is also currently available for prospecting. Areas identified as containing rare minerals would be caught up in a blanket ban and Woods has spoken in the past about their economic potential.
NZ First and some Labour MPs are reluctant to lock up more land in areas like the West Coast where the conservation estate makes up a large part of the region.
Current mining on DoC land is limited with mostly small operation for coal, quarrying and coal.