Deep South has strong conservation message for Government

I’m sure that when the Government first developed its plan to “unlock” for mining conservation areas currently protected by Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act, it anticipated that the plan would be opposed by conservationists and trendy lefties. But – the Government would have reasoned – such people don’t vote National anyway. What an unwelcome surprise it must have been for them, then, to see poll results showing their mining plans to be opposed by a good chunk of their supporters. That surprise has been compounded in the various protest activities to date by the genuine cross-section of society, including traditional National voters, willing to take a stand against their plans.

Saturday’s march in Invercargill in opposition to the Government’s mining plans was highly significant. More than 400 people took part – the largest number on an Invercargill march, at least in the last 20 years, and in temperatures of 5 or 6 degrees. That such a number would come out on a wintry Saturday afternoon tells the Government a couple of things. First, the heat and strength of the opposition to mining conservation land will not dissipate as it had hoped. The enviroment and conservation movements are rediscovering the direct action knowledge and skills that had grown a little rusty, and the protests will grow in size and vigour rather than diminish.

Secondly, while it’s all very well to get record numbers of people onto the streets in Auckland or Nelson, say, to do so in Invercargill will shake the Government’s confidence even more. In advancing their plans they have made a major miscalculation, and have made unwarranted assumptions about the kinds of people who live in rural and provincial New Zealand. Far from the acquiescent drones, grateful for any jobs or economic activity, that John Key assumed, Southlanders and other rural New Zealanders actually care passionately about protecting the special places like Rakiura (Stewart Island) that they love. In fact some Southlanders, like those from Nightcaps, know only too well the hellish deal that mining usually offers a community: jobs in return for environmental cost and compromised health, with all the profit going somewhere else.

It was a great privilege to be able to speak at the rally, alongside former Invercargill MP Lesley Soper, Shortland Street actor (and local) Bonnie Soper and local environmental hero (and occasional Frogblog correspondent!) Robert Guyton. It was also good to be part of an event that had been so well-organised, by Dave Kennedy and others. I particularly liked the fact that the first part of the march was silent, but for amplified recordings of bird calls – an emphatic statement of our love for these places and our implacable opposition to their desecration.

About Kevin Hague 163 Articles

Green Party Member of Parliament

15 Comments Posted

  1. Concerned conservationists in the south of the South Island should be even more concerned. Thought you might be interested in the article in the Business Section of the NZ Herald today outlining that oil rigs could start exploration drilling in ocean 1000m deep southeast of Dunedin sooner than later…..

    ‘The Texas-based oil explorer that owns 25 per cent of the damaged well pouring crude into the Gulf of Mexico says its work programme in deep water off the New Zealand coast has not been affected.

    Anadarko Petroleum must by late next month make a call on whether to drill off the South Island, targeting up to 500 million barrels of oil.

    While protesters have focused on Petrobras, the Brazilian company which has up to five years to decide on drilling off the East Coast, drilling by Anadarko off Dunedin could start in summer.’

    The article notes that most Taranaki drilling is done in water that is 200m deep or less. The ill-fated Deepwater Horizon rig was drilling in water at 1500m deep.

  2. PM Watcher – your ‘head count’ idea is an interesting one. A criticism I heard several times from people who wouldn’t attend was that the Government ‘wouldn’t take notice of a protest’. I had no problem with that because I believe it’s not them we were addressing, it was ordinary people who often can’t know if there are others who feel the same way they do, until they seem them en masse, marching for something, gathering for some reason, writing letters to support some cause. The most important people are …people, us!
    I recognised this ‘phenomenon’ during the Auckland bridge crossing, where… people … crossed the bridge, despite strick instructions not
    to 🙂 Again with the big Auckland anti-mining march, the Nelson tell-Nick-Smith-what-to-do event and again, down here in Southland, where it is NOT EASY to get people onto the streets. Huge gains were made from the weekends march. Supportive opinions have been formed all over the show and non-marchers are saying they wish they’d been there. That’s a significant change for us and I see it happening in the wider community at the same time.

  3. I wish there was some way of supporting from other parts of New Zealand in a physical way. Lots of people would like to be there to support such an important issue but can’t afford the costs or the time.
    What about something like a head count. A Stick and a universal picture of a man or a woman, girl or a boy, for everyone who emails their support and put their name underneath. That will give a truer indication of support around the country, providing the publicity for the event is well done and in good time.

  4. I think it is relevant Frog. On the one hand the Greens are out campaigning for National Parks but behind the scenes you are undermining (pardon the pun) the status quo by seeking to honour a constitutional arrangement built upon the Maori version of the Treaty of Waitangi as written in 1840.

    Here is what one rangitira says:
    “A far north claim negotiator says Muriwhenua iwi have one of the strongest cases in the country to customary ownership of the foreshore and seabed.

    Haami Piripi from Te Rarawa says the actions of elders in the 1950s to have Te Oneroa a Tohe or Ninety Mile beach classified as Maori land have provided a solid base for today’s negotiators.

    He says far north iwi have never given up the struggle, and the outcome could be better for everyone.

    “This is the kind of new institutional arrangement the country needs if it is move on to our next phase of maturity. Same for conservation estate land. You can’t have a whole forest or foreshore full of Maori nomenclature and run on a Roman paradigm, it doesn’t fit,” Mr Piripi says

    Far north negotiators have been using some of the models already established by Ngati Porou and te Whanau a Apanui to advance their case.”

    With regard to the mining quote:

    “DUNCAN I just want to look at mining if we can, I mean that 2004 Foreshore and Seabed law that Labour brought in, basically vested minerals in the Crown. If you are entirely going to repeal, why don’t you effectively look at that area because Maori would like minerals wouldn’t they, they would like to look at those minerals, yet if you repeal you want to hold on to the right that the Crown owns the minerals don’t you? ”

  5. jh, I tire of your off topic posts, I really do. We go to all the trouble of having ‘general debate’ for people like you and yet you persist. Why?

  6. How do the Greens see managing national Parks in the future “mana whenua” or 50:50 Mana whenua and “tauiwi”. Maori are interested in mineral rights re the foreshore and seabed (according to those Duncan Garner has spoken to)… won’t this apply to National Parks?
    Remember you are all committed to te tirriti (indigenous version of)… Remit introduced by Meteria Turie at the 2002 Party Conference.

  7. I agree with Robert, your effort to be there and support us, Kevin, was greatly appreciated. The Greens are having a real impact in the south this year with many groups coming to support Russel’s Mataura river trip, 200 people packing a room to support Sue Kedgley’s aged care tour and now Kevin leading our march.

  8. Eric Roy had a prior commitment but did come to talk to me before the beginning of the march. He explained how he too valued our conservation estate and was working hard inside his caucus to protect these areas. Time will tell how effective his advocacy will be. Tim was invited but also had a prior commitment.

    Heres a link to a great collection of photos from this eventful march;!/photo.php?pid=6242932&id=547333218&fbid=463601993218

  9. Drak – nope, unless he went incognito (there was one heavily made up ‘woman’ walking unsteadily on her (large) feet, but I just assumed that was Eric Roy).


    How can one evaluate Mr. Keys’ concept of wealth?

    I think he thrived from a culture of speculation, where such traders in the market place know the price of everything;

    How much does the sound of birds and running rivers cost?

    Or is this going to be sold for ‘acres and acres of tar and cement’?
    (Dusty springfield)

    Robert; out of curiosity did the mayor Tim Shadbolt attend the march?

  11. Kevin – your presence at the march and as a speaker at the march’s end was a huge boost to the effort. The Southland Times gave the march a ‘full half-page’, unexpectedly and unusually, and the report was a very favourable one. I spent today on the streets of Invercargill campaigning for the local body elections (early bird gets the worm!) and the incidental feedback about the march was heartwarming and very encouraging – no turned up noses, more quiet admiration and wishing that they’d taken part from those who hadn’t had the courage.
    All in all, a great success. Called in to report to Eric Roy’s staff on the success of the march and they were quite subdued about the whole thing, smiling wanly. We’ve a righty-blogger down here who criticised the appearence of Bonnie Soper on the march, but you get that from curmudgeons 🙂
    Oh, and it was good fun too. Watch Cue TV News at 9:00 tonight.

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