by Catherine Delahunty
About one hundred Coromandel people came out in the pouring rain yesterday to tell Gerry Brownlee what they thought of his plans to undermine Schedule 4 areas of the conservation estate. The Minister was briefly in Thames to talk with Hauraki iwi about the mining issue and given the absence of publicity was probably not expecting a hundred chanting locals including some tangata whenua to be outside the Civic Centre with banners.
A number of tangata whenua who had received rather late invitations to the hui were well prepared to challenge the Minister and were supportive of the protest organised by Coromandel Watchdog. The Green Party was there to support other residents who travelled from Whitianga, Tairua and Coromandel to express their views directly to the Minister even though we only saw him for about ten seconds.
However we were very heartened by the comments from kuia and kaumätua who had brought their mokopuna to tell the Minister what they thought of mining. The children from the kura kaupapa at Harataunga (Kennedys Bay) had visited the Waihi Gold Mine this week and they told me they had many questions for the Minister about why he would even consider allowing this activity in their area.
We heard later that Hauraki iwi spokespeople had unanimously rejected mining at the hui. There was apparently no iwi support in the meeting and people also raised new issues such as the matter of aerial mining surveys flying over land without the blessing of Hauraki iwi.
In the mean time people are writing submissions and organising meetings and preparing for a sustained effort to defend Schedule 4 and the conservation land which surrounds their homes. The rain is still falling on the steep unstable valleys where the gold companies want to make their fortunes but fortunately there are strong and united communities up here and we are not afraid to get wet.