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Giant mine sneaking through under new law

October 8, 2003 – Wellington
MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE

Giant mine sneaking through under new law

Forest and Bird is dismayed that a massive state-owned 11 million tonne opencast coalmine is being processed under controversial new ‘limited notification’ procedures for proposals that have only a ‘minor’ impact.

“It’s important to grasp the scale of this proposal,” Forest and Bird Conservation Manager Kevin Hackwell said today. “The coal and ‘waste’ rock from this mine could make a solid cube that would be higher than the sky tower. The ‘waste’ rock above the coal is between 15 and 20 stories thick.

This is a massive mine and cannot be considered ‘minor’.”

Greenpeace this morning announced that Environment Waikato is processing an application under the Resource Management Act for a new Solid Energy mine north-east of Raglan. Only a limited number of identified parties have been notified of the proposal and national environment and conservation organizations have been excluded from making submissions on the massive mine.

“Before Environment Waikato could consider limited notification, it had to be satisfied that the environmental effects of the mine are minor. People throughout New Zealand will be wondering how any council could decide that the impact of digging a two and a half square kilometre hole in the ground was minor,” Mr. Hackwell said.

“Forest and Bird campaigned against limited notification because we knew the provisions would be abused. What we didn’t expect is for the provision to be so spectacularly abused so fast by a state owned company,” he said.

“Solid Energy is a state owned enterprise. The government is setting a bad precedent by allowing one of its own companies to abuse the RMA in this manner. It makes a mockery of the government’s commitment to maintaining public consultation under the RMA,” he said.

“Prior to limited notification becoming law, Forest and Bird, Greenpeace, National Council of Women, Friends of the Earth, Environmental Defence Society and Environment and Conservation Organisations of New Zealand (ECO) wrote to Prime Minister Helen Clark warning that limited notification would reduce opportunities for public consultation. It has taken less than three months for this prediction to come true,” he said.

“Responsibility for this decision lies with the Government. They provided assurances that public interest groups would continue to be notified with the proposed changes. Those assurances have proven hollow,” he said.

Note

Limited notification came into effect on the 1st of August 2003.

The RMA is written in favour of public notification. Councils are allowed the discretion to use limited notification procedures only when satisfied the effects of an activity are ‘minor’.

The proposed mine contains 11 million cubic metres of coal and has 113 million cubic metres of overburden (the ‘waste’ rock that overlies the coal). The area of the mine pit will be two and a half square kilometres. The overburden is between 40 and 60 metres thick (15 to 20 storeys).

Contact: Kevin Hackwell Conservation Manager 04 385 7374. Cell phone 025 227 8420

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