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Landmark court decision protects reserves from mining

Forest & Bird is celebrating after a win in the Court of Appeal this afternoon which could protect council reserves around the country from mining.

The court released a decision this afternoon which means the Buller District Council needs to protect the special features of the Westport Water Conservation Reserve, which had been slated for use in the controversial Te Kuha opencast coal mine proposal.

“This is a pristine area of intact forest, home to threatened bird, lizard, invertebrate and plant species,” says Forest & Bird general counsel Peter Anderson. “So it’s fantastic news that the Reserves Act will be able to fulfil its purpose in protecting the natural features, as the public of New Zealand would rightly expect.”

The mining company Stevenson Mining Ltd had argued that protection of the natural and biological features was only one matter that the Council had to consider and that it could weigh this against the economic benefits of the mine.

But today the Court of Appeal found that the Council cannot enter into an access arrangement that is incompatible with the primary purpose of the reserve and had to protect the natural and biological features of the reserve.

The full court decision, as well as photos and drone footage of the area, are available here.

In a separate decision in July, the Ministers of Conservation and Energy refused permission for the mining company to include 12 ha of conservation land in the mine pit. The mining company has said it will seek a judicial review of that decision.

Forest & Bird has also taken a case with the Environment Court appealing the resource consents granted to the company for the mine.

“Great spotted kiwi, the South Island fernbird and the West Coast green gecko all live in this area," says Mr Anderson. “It’s home to the largest known population of the rare forest ringlet butterfly and other threatened invertebrates, including what appears to be a previously unknown species of tiger beetle. Our view is that it is not an appropriate place for an opencast coal mine.”


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