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Mining Ban Surprises Some, Land Classification Matters

Mining Ban Surprises Some, Land Classification Matters

INSIGHTS ABOUT THE NEWS - The mining sector has expressed surprise at the Govt saying it would ban new mines on conservation land.

As reported in Trans-Tasman’s sister publication, the NZ Energy & Environment Business Alert, the policy move was one line in the Speech from the Throne and later confirmed by Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage.

While it is understandable miners and those regions which benefit from their work are taken aback by the announcement’s abruptness, it is not surprising a Green Conservation Minister backed by Labour would head in this direction.

In the last Parliament, a Labour-sponsored Bill proposed banning all mining in land with World Heritage status. It was backed by the Greens, but voted down by National and NZ First. They said it would have even prevented small-scale gravel extraction in large parts of the West Coast, even on private land.

Under the current law about 50% of the Conservation estate is protected from almost all mining activity, under Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act. There are about 110 mines and quarries with permits on other parts of the Conservation estate, many of them small-scale operations such as shingle extraction from rivers.

A ban on mining on all the Conservation estate would need a change in law or Sage could make it administratively difficult for any new proposal to get permission. The other method to enforce a ban is by a change in land classification, with more land brought in under Schedule 4.

Crucial to this process will be the long-stalled review of stewardship land. Stewardship land comprises about 2.8m ha, a third of the Conservation estate, or 10% of NZ.

When DoC was set up in 1987 the intention in creating stewardship areas was to protect them from development until the conservation value could be established and appropriate protection chosen. This also envisaged areas with lower conservation values being disposed of.

For the vast majority of this land nothing much has happened, though DoC says the work is ongoing and is due to be revealed next month.

This process is now in the hands of Sage and she will push for protections in line with her party’s values. There will be some balances to this. Some senior Labour Ministers will be concerned at locking up economically valuable land with low conservation values. Others will see the land as playing an important role in the Govt’s ambitious plans to plant a 1bn trees in 10 years.
Trans Tasman’s sister publication, NZ Energy & Environment Business Alert, is a weekly source providing you with in-depth news, analysis and opinion on NZ’s energy and environment sectors.

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