by Catherine Delahunty
The news that mining industry spin is being uncritically adopted by officials advising the Minister of Energy and Mining is no surprise. A read of the Crown Minerals Bill shows that the Government is enthusiastically promoting and facilitating a range of minerals, oil, and gas exploration.
On the ground this Bill disempowers communities which may not support rural land and conservation land being mined. The Resource Management Act which acts as a barrier to unfettered mining development is also threatened with changes to speed up access to mining.
On Monday I visited a display of a new coal mine proposal on the Hauraki Plains near Mangatangi. The land is owned by Fonterra which the company wants to mine for coal to fuel their milk powder production plant. The display was full of pretty pictures and reassuring designs of the rehabilitation after 7 years of coal mining with a 30 hectare footprint. The local impact is really about dust, noise and industrialisation for the adjacent farming community. But no one was keen to talk with me about the depressing commitment to using a polluting fossil fuel which adds to climate change. It makes short term sense to for Fonterra to use their own coal, but I am disappointed in their lack of leadership and commitment to exploring clean alternatives for the future. I am also disappointed in that our laws aren’t adequate in protecting New Zealanders from the social impacts or long environmental effects, such as climate change, from new coal mines such as this one proposed by Fonterra.
Mining is a core focus of the Government’s economic strategy and given that mining policy is now industry driven, local impacts and global responsibility to our planet are not a priority.