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22, Mar, 2010

Government proposes a Ministry of Economic Development take over conservation land


Category: ECO Inc

The Government should stop looking at opening up more conservation land to mining and removing regulations designed to protect the environment, the Environment and Conservation Organisations (ECO) said today.

ECO co-chair Cath Wallace, says the proposals put forward by the Government today are worse than had been leaked over the past two weeks. “This is a takeover of conservation land and decision-making by the Ministry of Economic Development.”

“The Government should be acting to remove the privileged status miners had over other activity on conservation land rather than adding new privileges for miners.”

Cath Wallace said the Government now wants to add the Minister of Energy and Resources to decisions over mining access to conservation land. This will dilute the roles of the Minister of Conservation and require changes to legislation.”

“In addition to the removal of 7,000 hectares of high value conservation land, the Government proposes a $4 million review of tens of thousands of hectares of conservation land including those covered by internationally recognised World Heritage Status.”

Cath Wallace said the international community was already looking closely at what the New Zealand Government was doing. “Proposals to review World Heritage status will further alarm the international conservation community.”

“It's outdated to try to stimulate business by removing environmental regulations and will damage New Zealand’s international reputation with overseas consumers.

“Contrary to the statements of the Minister of Energy, Gerry Brownlee, mineral activity is not having a rough deal as mining already has a special status and is not subject to the usual provisions that apply to other activity on Conservation land.”

“While tourism activity, hut building, and roading is subject to the concessions provisions of the Conservation Act, which includes environmental impact assessment and public processes, miners gain access under the secretive provisions of the Crown Minerals Act.

“The only real safeguards are the prohibitions on surface activity under the fourth schedule of the Crown Minerals Act which names some conservation areas as off limits to mining. Yet it is this that the government intends to change to make more areas available to mining.”

“These provisions apply to only some of the categories of extremely important conservation land and some marine reserves.”

Cath Wallace said the Schedule 4 provisions do not prevent mining in conservation parks, marine mammal sanctuaries, or in world heritage areas. “The international community will be appalled at the government’s intention to open more conservation areas to mining and to remove other environment-protecting regulations.”

For further information, contact Cath Wallace on or (04)463-5713 or Barry Weeber 021-738-807 or (04)389-1686

Notes:

  1. ECO – the Environment and Conservation Organisations was established in 1972 and represents 67 groups with a concern for the environment.
  2. The Fourth Schedule of the Crown Minerals Act was passed by a National Party Government in 1997 under section 3 Crown Minerals Amendment Act (No 2) 1997. It prohibits mineral activity on conservation land gazetted as national parks, nature reserves, scientific reserves, wilderness areas, marine reserves, forest sanctuaries, wildlife sanctuaries, wetlands of international importance, and the Coromandel Peninsula, Hauraki Gulf, and associated offshore islands.
  3. The Fourth Schedule does not stop mining in World Heritage Areas, conservation parks, most ecological areas (especially on the West Coast of the South Island), and marine mammal sanctuaries. This schedule does not prevent miners operating mines under, for example national parks, or clearing native vegetation for service or emergency adits.
  4. The World Heritage areas proposed for review include the area north of Haast in Te Wāhiponamu World Heritage Area.
  5. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, a governmental and non-governmental body, has past resolutions calling on all countries to stop mining on category I to IV protected areas, which applies to nearly all categories conservation land.
  6. The 9th World Wilderness Conference held in Mexico passed a resolution expressing “concern to the New Zealand Government that it is in the process of carrying out an audit of the mineral resources within the protected area system, including its World Heritage Sites, with a view to considering exploitation.”. It resolved:
    1. To urge the government of New Zealand to reaffirm its commitment to internationally endorsed protected area management definitions, objectives principles and practices;
    2. To request the New Zealand Government to retain the no mining status quo measures of protection in relation to public conservation land (as detailed in Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act) within protected areas.
  7. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources specialist group the World Commission on Protected Areas has expressed concern at the proposed review.