Last night at Smitty’s Bar and Grill in Whitianga I joined David Bennett (National) and Catherine Delahunty (Green) on the TV show Back Benches.
One of the issues we discussed is the potential mining of land protected because of its high conservation value under Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act. The Government is undertaking a stocktake of this land which includes all DOC land, coastline and most offshore islands north of the Kopu-Hikuai Rd in the Coromandel. On November 27 Gerry Brownlee indicated his view that mining should be allowed in this currently protected land in the Coromandel.
I, like many others, believe the Coromandel is one of the most beautiful and environmentally significant parts of New Zealand. The peninsula includes a vast array of different environments from mountains to the coast. The natural environment is a major drawcard for tourists and a major factor in local residents’ quality of life. Mining would potentially threaten the mountains, coasts, islands, water catchments and native forests that make this area the special place that it is. All mining- underground or opencast has negative impacts. Gold mining which is what is of interest in the Coromandel has consequences such as hazardous waste, damage to unstable areas, water pollution, impact on the landscape (even underground mines require roads), damage to habitats of native fauna and flora not to mention the disruption of noise, vibration and heavy truck movements.
In relation to economic development in places like the Coromandel it is important to compare the value of mining to that generated by tourism. Across New Zealand the figures are $1.6 billion versus $21 billion. Tourism relies on the preservation of the natural environment.
At Back Benches last night there were many people wearing Tshirts with the slogan ‘The Coromandel is too precious to mine’. They are members of the Coromandel Peninsula Watchdog. I want to acknowledge the determination and commitment of this group which has fought to protect the Coromandel for 25 years, as they say “to ensure the unique wilderness heritage that the Coromandel offers is not lost to the short term exploitation of minerals”. This National government has certainly got Watchdog members understandably worried and on alert.
Of course it is not just the Coromandel threatened by this review of Schedule 4.
As we count down to 2010 it may be worth thinking about the things that are precious to us as New Zealanders. In my uninterrupted 30 seconds Last Word last night I spoke of the Government’s plans to destroy our world class no fault ACC scheme. This important piece of our social infrastructure is too precious to become a privatised insurance scheme.
What does this National Government value?