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03, Oct, 2004

Council failures under-mining the Coromandel


Category: ECO Inc

New information has revealed shocking favouritism and failure to consult by the Thames Coromandel District Council (TCDC) prior to the decision to change their Proposed District Plan to allow mining on the Coromandel, says Cath Wallace of the Environment and Conservation Organisations.

The decision was made despite council Principal Policy Planner, Bruce Baker, advising the TCDC Policy & Planning committee in May 2003 that;
“There is a need for the community to be involved in the settlement of this reference and the number of third parties showing interest reflects this.”

The members of the Policy and Planning Committee were deputy-mayor and mayoral candidate Philippa Barriball, Brian Sharp, Noel Hewlett and Yvonne Walmsley.

“ECO is angry that even directly interested parties including the Minister of Conservation, local ratepayer organisations, environment and community groups, as well as the Coromandel community at large were not consulted.

Yet while failing to consult or even to respond to letters from interested parties including Ministers of the Crown, the TCDC had a series of meetings and discussions with those vested interest referrers, the New Zealand Mineral Industries Association and the Ministry of Economic Development, stretching over several years.

As well as these meetings the council was lobbied by and met mining associated interests in the period before the TCDC Policy & Planning Committee changed its position and its plan. The change in position at the Committee meeting on 15 April 2004 was in order to appease the mining interests prior to the Environment Court case on relevant appeals.

Cath Wallace said. “We believe that this demonstrates the strength and hidden influence of a quiet but well-funded lobbying campaign by the mining industry and the Ministry of Economic Development, to re-open areas of the Coromandel that had been previously closed to mining. We hope that the voters in the local body elections keep the Council’s track record in mind when voting. It is very poor practice to allow such special interests the inside running without informing the community and interested parties.”

Coromandel communities went through decades of public protests, debates and conflicts against prospecting and mining and their impacts. In 1998 TCDC reviewed its Proposed District Plan and decided to make all forms of mining a prohibited activity in both the coastal and conservation zones on the Peninsula.

It is very disturbing that this position, arrived at through a lengthy consultative process could be changed without the community being consulted. District councils operate under the 2002 Local Government Act which requires “early and full” consultation by councils with their communities on issues of special significance to them.

ECO has five Coromandel member organisations and we have a long history of involvement in the mining issue on the Coromandel dating from the late 1970s.
Further information is available at www.pohutukawa.org.nz