by Catherine Delahunty
The Government has a strategy to avoid protecting the environment, especially land set aside for its conservation values. It’s called “net conservation benefit” and the poster child of this disingenuous piece of spin is the Bathurst Resources agreement with DOC at the Denniston Plateau.
As DOC is increasingly required to commercialise and mining is promoted, the Government needs a way to look good as they destroy. Open cast mining for a fossil fuel is so damaging that not even the Government or Bathurst can pretend the land can be restored. This is especially true when the land is a unique escarpment of extraordinary rock formations covered in bonsai native trees and many rare plants and animals. So instead the Government and Bathurst have agreed that money will be spent on offsetting this impact by carrying out pest control elsewhere, resulting in “net conservation benefit”.
This is like saying “I will make up for my abusive behaviour towards one person by being really nice to another person”.
What is more, Bathurst probably don’t have the $22 million to carry out the proposal. They don’t have the money to mine very much at all because the coal price is seriously depressed. DOC has agreed to give them a two year extension on their agreement to pay up the money for pest control elsewhere on conservation land. The word from the Coast is that Bathurst have started preparing for mining one day and have six people employed. This is hardly the great success story Nick Smith likes to trumpet.
The idea of net conservation benefit is inherently flawed and relying on the stability of a mining company to deliver is at best naïve. The history of mining is a history of boom and bust and broken promises as prices seesaw and workers jobs and mortgages are at the whim of a fragile industry.
Instead of the “net conservation benefit” the Green Party supports real protection of conservation land from certain destruction by activities such as mining or logging. We are confident that protecting and healing the environment is a better legacy for our children than huge holes in the ground and piles of toxic waste.