by Catherine Delahunty
On Friday there was another step backwards for Bathurst Resources in their bid to open cast mine the Denniston Plateau. The High Court ruled that the Environment Court had been in error with some of their findings from their interim decision in March. This requires the Environment Court to re-evaluate several aspects of the original case taken by Forest and Bird.
Basically the High Court has ruled that the concept of “offsetting” by the mining company donating to pest control is not “mitigation” at the site of the mine. Essentially this means the effects of an open cast mine cannot be considered to have been lessened if money is spent on other unrelated environmental activities. The $22 million for pest control in the Heaphy area and on parts of the Denniston plateau will not be considered as a mitigation for open case mining an iconic landscape.
The court has recognised the truth that species such as the great spotted kiwi and the green gecko, and the extraordinary landscape values of the area they want to turn into a huge pit will not benefit if their home is destroyed.
What happens next is anyone’s guess but Bathurst is relying on the Government to push this project through so they can get started and keep their offshore investors happy. They are also hoping that the Escarpment open cast mine will be the first of six on the plateau.
People on the West Coast know a coal company cannot be relied upon. As Solid Energy collapses and the world coal price becomes shakier the economics get fragile. Add to this the growing recognition that we must transition out of coal for the sake of our precious climate and we must protect biodiversity for the sake of our future.
The Denniston plateau incline and plateau could be a tourist attraction rivalling Punakaiki Rocks and Franz Josef. It is about vision and the courage to invest in sustainability, not holes in the ground.