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Compromise is possible on snails and mining

3 May 2006

Compromise is possible on snails and mining

The assertion by Conservation Minister Chris Carter in Parliament today that the decision to allow Solid Energy to mine the natural habitat of an endangered native snail was "the only possible decision I could make" has been rejected by the Green Party.

Mr Carter last month approved a plan to move 250 Powelliphanta "Augustus" snails to make way for an extension of Solid Energy's Stockton mine. Under the plan, mining will go ahead without a trial period to see whether the snails adapt successfully to their new habitat. There is therefore a high chance that the extremely rare species, which only exists in one location, may become extinct as a result of the Minister's decision.

When questioned by Green Party Conservation Spokesperson Metiria Turei in the House today, Mr Carter said that in weighing up the economic benefits that would flow from the coal mine and the wildlife concerns about the snails, the decision to move the snails was "the only possible decision I could make".

"This is not true and the Minister knows it," Mrs Turei says.

"He knows it because in January, faced with a very similar decision, he decided to reduce the area available to a mining company to save another rare species of land snail."

In approving dolomite mining activity on Mt Burnett in Golden Bay, Mr Carter stipulated that the area available to be mined would be smaller than that requested by the mining company in order to protect the habitat of a rare land snail and of several native plant species.

The operations manager of the mining company concerned welcomed the decision, saying that it recognised both the conservation values of the area, and the strategic importance of the dolomite resource to New Zealand agriculture.

"This case clearly shows that it is possible to balance the economic concerns of miners and the conservation concerns of protecting endangered species in such a way that all parties are happy," Mrs Turei says.

"To say that the decision to move the Mt Augustus snails was the only thing he could do is a cop out. The Minister should follow his own example set in the Mt Burnett case and seek a similar solution now."


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