Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Another mining bill

Last week, Metiria Turei's Crown Minerals (Protection of Public Conservation Land Listed in the Fourth Schedule) Amendment Bill was drawn from the ballot. Today during Question Time, Jacinda Ardern sought leave to introduce a Conservation (Requirement for Special Approval for Changes to Schedule Four) Amendment Bill. So, are the bills the same, and thus potentially subject to Standing order 260(a)?

No. Meyt's bill amends s61(4) of the Crown Minerals Act to prevent the Minister of Conservation from removing land from the protection of Schedule 4 by Order in Council. Jacinda's bill amends s18 of the Conservation Act 1987 to require any revocation of conservation status under that Act to be confirmed by Parliament. It does this because the easiest way for the government to achieve its objectives of allowing mining in these areas is not just to remove areas from schedule 4, but to revoke their underlying conservation status. National parks are already safe - they can only be changed by Act of Parliament - and there are tight restrictions around changes to reserves managed under the Reserves Act. But there are no such limits on conservation areas. The bill would protect the Parakawai and Otahu ecological areas, and some of the land on the Coromandel and Great Barrier. But the protection would not be complete.

Of course, the government could still excise these areas from the protection of Schedule 4 while retaining the underlying conservation status. This would still mean a significant barrier to mining, but not an absolute prohibition. So Meyt's bill is necessary too. But it is also clear that we need a more general bill addressing all of the multiple overlapping protection regimes if we want to properly protect this land from mining in the future.