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Mt Burnett dolomite quarry extension declined

Mt Burnett dolomite quarry extension declined

Conservation Minister Chris Carter has declined a request for access to a nationally significant piece of conservation land sought for the expansion of a dolomite and rock quarry on Mount Burnett in Golden Bay.

Omya (NZ Ltd) runs the dolomite quarry, which spans over 128.7 hectares of Mount Burnett on the fringes of Kahurangi National Park. The company applied to obtain access rights over an additional 4ha of conservation land so it could extend its existing quarry.

"After considering the criteria laid down in the Crown Minerals Act, I have declined this application because the cost to New Zealand's biodiversity is simply too high," Mr Carter said today.

"Mount Burnett has an ecology of national and international significance. The distinctive geological and topographical features of the area have resulted in a very rare and highly unusual forest that is home to at least six species of shrub and sedge found nowhere else in the world but on Mount Burnett," Mr Carter said.

"The piece of land sought by Omya is a habitat for three of these species. Two of them are classified as nationally critical and the other, nationally endangered. The land also contains a significant population of a nationally endangered giant land snail, Powelliphanta. In fact an entire subspecies of this snail is located within a two kilometre radius of Mt Burnett and nowhere else," Mr Carter said.

"In making my decision I have concluded that the inconsistencies between the application and the objectives of the Conservation Act under which the land is held, the various purposes for which the land is held and the relevant management plans that apply over the area are sufficient to outweigh the partial safeguards and the compensation being offered by the company," Mr Carter said.

"To put it simply, approving this access arrangement would be like agreeing to the destruction of up to seven of the last 100 kakapo," Mr Carter said.

He said the company had offered a compensation package in which 14 ha of its current mining licence, also containing the rare plants, would have been voluntarily set aside from any mining in return for the area applied for.

"While I appreciate Omya's efforts, I cannot accept this arrangement because the advice to me is the company is not actually planning to mine the proffered 14 ha until after its existing mining licence for the area (ML32-1871) expires in 2006. Consequently, I believe it makes good sense to wait and explore the whole issue of dolomite quarrying on Mt Burnett again in 2006."

Mr Carter said the company had assured him that they had sufficient supplies of raw materials to keep working until 2006.

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