Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Dig it all up

That seems to be the advice the government is getting from the Ministry of Economic Development on digging up our national parks, with a leaked memo recommending that the northeast corner of Mount Aspiring National Park be removed from the protection of schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act:

Mineral prospects

1. This area is home to the only known carbonatite deposits in New Zealand, making it a potential deposition zone for REEs. There are several known mineral occurrences within the park, including showings of gold, chromium and nickel. The geology suggests that the park area is prospective for at least 11 different types of mineral deposits. However, because of the national park status of the area since 1964, there has been little modern geochemical exploration of the area to assist in assessing its prospectivity.

2. In particular, the land in the northeast corner of Mount Aspiring National Park has high mineral prospectivity, particularly in respect of tungsten and REEs.


3. It is therefore recommended that the northeast sector of the national park (the part which approximates the known extent of the carbonatite formations, and which amounts to about <20% of the land area of the park) be considered for removal from Schedule Four.

Note what's missing from this memo: any mention of conservation, recreation or environmental values. The government is basing this conclusion solely on the potential for mining, without any consideration of the environment at all. Its all the more shocking when you realise that Mount Aspiring National Park is part of the Te Wahipounamu - Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area, a site internationally recognised as being of outstanding conservation value and part of the common heritage of humanity. You would expect that point - and the damage to our international reputation digging in such an area could cause - to feature large in the government's advice. But apparently not. All that matters to them is a hole in the ground.

For extra irony value, the park was used for the site of Isengard in Lord of the Rings (though the location isn't in the area they want to dig up). Where are the Ents when you need them?