Friday, September 11, 2020

Stewardship land is conservation land

The Greens' greatest disappointment while in government this term has been the failure to implement a ban on mining on conservation land. Promised by Jacinda Ardern immediately after gaining power, it had long been assumed that the problem was NZ First (who have a long history of environmental vandalism). But it turns out that the real problem all along was Labour, who are refusing to commit to a ban and playing semantics over "stewardship land" and "conservation land":

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was asked on Thursday why the Government has continued approving mining on conservation land since 2017, despite promising it wouldn't happen when she took office.

"One of the things we have been working through, and has taken a little bit of time to work through, has been the difference between conservation and stewardship land," Ardern said.

"We have large amounts of land that are technically under stewardship land where these applications often apply and that's been one of the things as a Government we've been trying to resolve."

The problem: stewardship land is conservation land. It's right there in the interpretation clause: "stewardship area means a conservation area..." (that is not subject to specific protections). And while not subject to specific, high-level protections like a reserve or national park, the fact that it is a "conservation area" means it is held for "conservation purposes", meaning "the preservation and protection of natural and historic resources for the purpose of maintaining their intrinsic values, providing for their appreciation and recreational enjoyment by the public, and safeguarding the options of future generations". And just for additional emphasis, there's a specific clause requiring stewardship land to be "managed that its natural and historic resources are protected". A mining ban is absolutely consistent with this. Or, to turn it around, allowing mining on stewardship land is prima facie inconsistent with it, and can only be done where the stewardship land has no natural or historic resources to protect.

What these word games show is that Labour is two-faced on conservation, and won't stick even to its clear commitments. Which isn't really surprising. After all, remember how they handled the offshore gas exploration ban: make a big announcement, then immediately undermine it by extending permits where-ever possible. This is just more of the same. They want the green cred for making the announcement, but don't actually want to follow through with actual meaningful policy (see also: "my generation's nuclear free moment"). And if wondering why the Greens might not want to be in government with them, shit like this is why.