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March 1, 2010 | by  | in News |
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Key to “unlock” minerals

Hopes to find gemstones to level up

Prime Minister John Key opened parliament this year with a promise to “unlock” New Zealand’s resources.

Key told parliament that “there is… extraordinary economic potential in the mineral estate residing in Crown-owned land”.

In his Statement to Parliament Key signalled his government’s intention to make changes to Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act to allow mining on areas of Crown land currently protected from such activity due to its high conservation value.

Acknowledging that “people have expressed concern about increased mining” in conservation areas, Key proposed establishing a conservation fund to “resource special conservation projects around the country”.

Key says the fund could potentially draw on royalty revenue paid to the Crown from mining operations on Crown land. He said “that means that if there is an increase in mining activity, New Zealand’s natural environment would also be improved”.

The Green Party was quick to voice its opposition to Key’s plans.

Green co-leader Metira Turei disagrees with Key’s assertion that mining would be beneficial to the economy, saying “mining will hurt the economy as well as the environment” by affecting New Zealand’s tourism industry.

Turei pointed to an open letter to Key from North American environmental organisation the Sierra Club. The Club’s International Vice President Richard Cellarius argued that international tourists would reconsider visiting New Zealand if our “magnificent mountains include vistas that are marred by mining excavations”.

On Labour’s Red Alert blog, Opposition conservation spokesperson David Parker expressed dismay at the government’s plans.

Blogging from the Mount Aspiring National Park—one of the potential mine locations proposed by the government—Parker says “it is just about unimaginable that the Nats will go ahead and mine these beautiful and pristine areas”.

In an effort to cut through the political positioning from the major parties, Salient approached Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright for comment.

As Commissioner for the Environment Dr Wright gives Parliament independent advice on environmental issues.
One of the functions carried out by Dr Wright and her team of environmental researchers is the investigation of “any matter where the environment may be or has been adversely affected”.

Dr Wright told Salient “we don’t know yet what the government’s plans are with regards to mining on conservation land. I will be following the details of the policy with very close interest.

“Strict environmental conditions must be met when it comes to considering any mining on conservation land. Those conditions would have to be very stringent indeed to convince me that mining should proceed in National Parks.”

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