Tuesday, March 23, 2010

This is just the beginning

Yesterday the government released its plans to open more than 7,000 hectares of high-value conservation land to mining. So far I've focused my criticism on the areas they have said they want to remove from schedule 4 - parts of Great Barrier Island, the Coromandel, and Eastern Paparoa National Park. But that's just the beginning. But according to the discussion document [PDF], the government will also be investigating the mineral resources of other areas in schedule 4 with an eye to opening them. These include:

  • the rest of the Coromandel
  • the rest of Paparoa National Park
  • Rakiura National Park on Stewart Island
Gerry Brownlee's "envelope on Eden Park" is just the beginning. He wants it all. And we have to stop him.

One way of doing so was suggested last night. When an interviewer pointed out to Gerry Brownlee that mining on Great Barrier Island - one of the areas he wants to open - is prohibited by the district plan, he suggested that anyone can get a plan change. But this cuts both ways - if mining companies can apply to have that prohibition removed, environmentalists can apply to have similar prohibitions enacted by the Thames-Coromandel, Buller, and Southland District Councils. And with local body elections due later this year, I think making such a proposal would be a wonderful way of focusing the mind of candidates and councillors on the political cost to them of permitting schedule 4 land to be despoiled. It may also create space for anti-mining candidates to be elected to those bodies, in the same way that concern over water use in Canterbury saw a number of environmentalist candidates elected to ECan last election.

In the long run, though, the only way to assure the safety of these areas is to change the government. And Brownlee has just given a lot of people a strong reason to do just that.