Friday, August 26, 2022

Labour's stalled Crown Minerals Act review

On Wednesday, the High Court ruled that the Zero Carbon Act isn't worth shit and that the government can continue to approve new fossil fuel exploration without having to consider climate change. The core of the problem is the Crown Minerals Act, and in particular its purpose: "to promote prospecting for, exploration for, and mining of Crown owned minerals for the benefit of New Zealand". This taints every decision made under the Act, while the decision criteria for permit applications rule out considering climate change.

The Greens have responded to the ruling by calling for a review of the Act. The government actually began a review of the Act in 2018, which (among other things) explicitly considered the purpose clause. Submissions on that part closed in January 2020, and according to the summary of submissions 81% of submitters wanted that purpose amended to remove the word "promote" (11% opposed that; they were from the mining industry plus a few shills like the Buller District Council). And since then... crickets. The only thing to come out of the review has been the law to shift decommissioning costs back onto miners (where they belong) - and that seems to have been primarily driven by the Tamarind bankruptcy. As for those who submitted on the review (and I was one of them), congratulations - you wasted your time. Again.

There's an obvious parallel here with Labour's OIA review. In both cases, the government promised change, announced a review, then stalled and buried it. And in both cases, the motive is clearly to protect the status quo and avoid making the change they promised. But that dishonesty and bad faith has a cost in public trust. And when Aotearoa has a problem with conspiracy theorists and disinformation, that seems like something the government should be trying to avoid.