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20, Jul, 2010

Government decision on Schedule Four Welcomed But Conservation Areas still at risk especially with Minister of Economic Development a decision maker


Category: ECO Inc

The Government decision not to take areas from Schedule Four is welcome, but the Government decision to give the Minister of Energy and Resources effective control over mining access to conservation land was a major step backwards, the Environment and Conservation Organisations (ECO) said today.

ECO co-chair Cath Wallace said the decision on schedule 4 protected land is a victory for all those who made submissions, marched and signed petitions against the proposal to open up further conservation land to mining. “The government deserves credit for listening to them.”

“The Government should now listen to those submitters and not include the Minister of Economic Development (Gerry Brownlee) in making decisions on other conservation land.”

Ms Wallace said the process showed that neither Gerry Brownlee nor his Ministry understood the real values of conservation areas and the attachment New Zealanders have to it.

Cath Wallace said sensitive areas of Northland and the West Coast are still at risk. “The Government still proposes a $4.5 million survey of tens of thousands of hectares of conservation land including those covered by internationally recognised World Heritage Status on the West Coast. Mining is an anathema to World Heritage Status.”

Cath Wallace said the Schedule 4 provisions do not prevent mining in special areas like ecological areas, marine mammal sanctuaries, or in World Heritage areas and these needed to be better protected.

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

“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 areas. That must be changed to judge all activities by the same standards and to allow public input.”

Cath Wallace said ECO welcomed the introduction of a public process for mining. “This change needs to go further and remove the privileged place miners have in access to conservation areas.”

“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 currently gain access under the secretive provisions of the Crown Minerals Act.”

For further information, contact Cath Wallace on 021-891-994 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 not covered by the 4th Schedule include over 320,000 hectares on the West Coast both north and South of Haast in Te Wāhiponamu World Heritage Area and all the marine areas in the Sub-Antarctic World Heritage Area apart from the area covered by the Auckland Islands marine reserve.
  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. 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.
  6. The adverse effects of mining and exploration in protected areas include:
    • significant damage for forests and other native vegetation,
    • scarring from hard rock sampling,
    • damage from hard rock mining;
    • the release particularly into water systems, of heavy metals, arsenic, cadmium, lead, zinc, and other substances found with gold and silver mineralisation.