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Decision Driven By Politics Not Environment

19 August 2001

Conservation Minister Sandra Lee should have tested environmental concerns over the GRD Macraes Reefton mine in the Environment Court rather than vetoing the proposal and denying over 200 West Coasters work, National's Environment spokesperson Nick Smith said tonight.

"This is a decision based on politics not the environment. If the Minister was genuinely concerned about issues such as water quality, safety of the tailings dam, and the leachate, she would have appealed the resource consent to the Environment Court. Her veto is nothing more than a cynical ploy to stem the tide of support moving from the Alliance to the Greens.

"This is the third time this Government has side-stepped the Environment Court. In late 1999, Cabinet stopped Environment Court scrutiny of Timberlands sustainable forestry. Earlier this year Conservation Minister Sandra Lee overruled the Environment Court by halting the Whitianga waterways development. This politicisation of environmental decision making should concern all fair-minded New Zealanders.

"The Minister deliberately misrepresents the 260 hectare area for the proposed mine as 'natural' when it has been previously mined and logged. It is political correctness gone mad when the historic status of old mines prevents it being mined.

"The Minister's own conservation board supports the mine saying it had 'no specific or outstanding conservation values.' The Minister's decision also overlooks the 540 hectares of private pristine forest that would be added to the Conservation Park if the mine goes ahead.

"West Coasters are right to feel aggrieved by this decision and the cynical way it was announced. Releasing it on a Friday night at the beginning of parliamentary recess is designed to avoid public and parliamentary scrutiny.

"National will be joining West Coast Labour MP Damien O'Connor in demanding that Prime Minister Helen Clark overturns the decision. The birthplace of Labour deserves a fairer deal," Dr Smith said. Ends


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