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Quarries Association Conference - Paul Swain

Hon. Paul Swain
13 July 2000 Speech Notes
Institute of Quarrying and Aggregates and Quarries Association Conference

Thank you for inviting me here today, this is my first opportunity to talk to you as Associate Minister of Energy – and Minister with responsibility for Crown Minerals. It's a good opportunity for us to look at some of the issues and challenges facing the quarrying industry at the moment.

First of all can I say that I do appreciate the industry's significant contribution to New Zealand's economy.

The quarry and aggregates industry has long been the cornerstone of New Zealand society providing industrial rocks for concrete, road making and building and fertiliser application.

With a population of 3.8 million, New Zealand has a limited market for industrial mineral production, however, our developed economy demands relatively large quantities of building materials for new construction and fertiliser minerals for the high level of agricultural production

As a result, sitting comfortably within our ‘clean green’ country is an efficiently operating quarry industry that contributes significantly to our nation’s gross domestic product

In fact the annual industrial mineral production is worth $550 million (approx 30 million tonnes). And demand for its products are high – especially in the main centres.

Having said that, there are issues. The industry suffers from a poor image among parts of the population, there are also concerns about sustainability permit processing and health and safety issues. I would like to talk about some of these.

Many New Zealanders don't appreciate the economic value in the quarrying industry although they make good use of the products - the average NZ consumption rate is around 7 tonnes per person per annum. But there does exist a bit of the old "great idea but not in my backyard" attitude.

The quarry industry is often perceived as not being a good neighbour. Many citizens see it as an industry that uses explosives and large machinery to make big holes and cart away the profits – the link to their wellbeing is often not obvious

I don't need to tell you that quarries are gradually being forced out of built up areas not just by resource depletion but also community pressure.

The issue is not 'minerals are only where u find them' but more realistically 'quarries are only where you can develop them.'

That's the image – we know it is not always the reality but it is up to the industry to work on improving the way the public perceives it.

All operators have a responsibility for lifting the look of the industry – not only by producing a cost competitive quality product but also by running operations that are environmentally and socially responsible.

I can assure you that this government supports an active quarry industry in NZ that is environmentally sustainable and job creating.

We appreciate the significance of what you do and the important contribution you make to the New Zealand economy. And we are aware that your industry extends to industrial mineral producers and recycling specialists - It is up to you to get that message out to the public.

As I said before New Zealanders are high consumers of the quarry industry's products – that means that questions of sustainability are an issue.

For communities to be confident that the ever increasing demand for rock products can be sustained into the next century we need to address issues such as consumption trends, resource availability and replacement well in advance.

And we need to do this now, not when the supply dries up or cost structures become prohibitive.

I have been told that a current planning problem is that annual quarry production statistics are no longer collected on a national basis. Crown Minerals, a group within the Ministry of Economic Development, has recently embarked on the reintroduction of the collection of industrial mineral production on an annual basis.

Both the Aggregate and Quarry Association and the NZ Minerals Industry Association support this initiative.

This data will be used to accurately reflect the state and well being of the industry and can also be used for regional planning purposes

Soon all quarry operators will be asked to fill out an output return for each commercially operated quarry. This is invaluable information that will be collated and used to plan for the future.

While doing this we are mindful of not increasing compliance costs to the industry and for that reason a production return will only need to be filled out once a year and not twice a year as in the past.

The return form has been designed so that it is simple and straightforward but contains information that will be used by both central and regional government as well as industry

I cannot emphasise the need for cooperation of industry in this matter. If true and accurate production returns are not submitted the data collected will be flawed and therefore of little use. This is future planning and it's important we get it right.

Crown Minerals Act 1991
One complaint that is fairly common from this industry is the permitting procedure. There are a number of areas of concern about those procedures – not the least of them is it is just too complicated.

Over the last five years Crown Minerals has been streamlining its permit processing procedures and has reduced the processing time for permits under the Crown Minerals Act 1991. It now takes an average of five months to process permits – that's much faster than the 18 months under previous legislation. We are working all the time at getting that down.

In fact in one instance where the applicant was proactive and provided all the necessary information and had consulted with iwi beforehand, the permit was granted in just eight days.

In another move to simplify the process we are investigating legislative initiatives such as removing the requirement for permits to be registered with the District Land Registrar.

Registering with the District Land Court is an unnecessary burden, as the existence of the permit does not affect a landowner’s ability to use the land because consent is required before any mining operations can start. Compliance costs will be reduced as a result of this move.

At the same time the government is also proposing to tidy up some residual issues that remain following the transfer of the Mining Inspection Group to the Department of Labour in July 1998

At the moment various statutory duties are either undertaken by mining and quarry inspectors or by the Secretary of Commerce.

The responsibility for discharging these duties needs to be transferred to the Secretary of Commerce alone so that the accountability for such matters rests with one body within central government.

This will leave the mines and quarries inspectors free to focus on their core duty of health and safety under the HSE legislation

As a result licence and permit holders will benefit by having to deal with only one agency in respect of the management of the Crown Mineral estate and compliance with licence conditions

Health and Safety in the Workplace
As ever in such a heavily mechanised and physical industry health and safety issues are a concern.

Improving the safety record is a critical goal. I was extremely disappointed to see recently that the number of serious harm accidents jumped from 15 in 1998 to 28 in 1999. We need to do much better.

I encourage all in the industry to make a concentrated effort to bring the accident rate down. We do not rate favourably with Australian States, and this does rankle.

If we compare New Zealand with the Northern Territory and Victoria states of Australia as they have similar sized populations. The serious harm accident frequency rate per 1,000,000 hrs worked in New Zealand is the Northern Territory it is 3.49 and in Victoria it is 3.32. Western Australia's workforce is 10 times larger than ours and their accident rate is 2.16.

In saying this I was pleased to see the development of a Surface Code of Practice is now well advanced. This code will outline the preferred way of operating and will include health and safety issues. I am looking forward to the report on this work.

I also welcome the response to the "Changing the Culture" seminars run in Auckland and Christchurch recently. I understand that OSH will be facilitating more around the country in the new financial year. These seminars are aimed at managers and supervisors and I encourage you all to attend one.

These seminars and OSH initiatives on "Standards Awareness" and "Accident Investigation and Hazard Identification" all go some way to achieving a better safety record in the industry.

I understand that Occupational Safety and Health's Chief Inspector of Mines and Quarries George Munro will be talking some more about this later this morning.

Other issues
I understand there is some frustration in the industry about the differing applications of the Resource Management Act by local councils. The Ministry for the Environment intends putting together some good practice models for use by councils. These good practice models will look at good ways of writing rules and approaching RMA issues.

I have also been told that there is a fair amount of frustration with the current process to get a heavy vehicle licence. At the moment it involves a graduated process of either a six-month approval period with a supervisor in the vehicle. Or having to pass a type of advanced test with an approved provider.

As a truck driver myself I could understand the frustration felt by you at this lengthy and costly process.

The Minister of Transport has announced a review of some aspects of the driver licensing regime – part of that review will be of the number of progressive stages it takes to get a heavy vehicle drivers licence.

There you have some of what I believe are the challenges and issues facing the industry over the next while. The quarrying and aggregate industry produces a vital component required for the ongoing maintenance and further development of our society and this government does value it.

The materials produced are important to the welfare and support of every community for civil and domestic construction, public utilities and services, hospitals and schools, roading, land protection and all manner of other things

The challenge for you as an industry is to continue to meet the ever-increasing community demand for the product that will inevitably be the outcome of population growth, and to work on a better public image.

That challenge can only be met by continued good quarry practice, best practice safety management in the workplace, and careful and effective forward planning to gain access to rock and stone resources to meet demand and community expectations

I am keen to look at ways in which we can work closer together in the future. At the end of this conference I would be happy to receive a report on the most pressing issues that need to be addressed by government. I can't promise to fix them all, but I do pledge to listen and to address the concerns that are in my area of responsibility.

In the meantime, have any enjoyable conference, and I wish you well for the future.


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