According to The Press, Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee is denying he trimmed a South Island conservation park after being lobbied by mining company L&M. However, documents posted on The Standard and No Right Turn show he was lying.
The article in the The Press states:
The Oteake Conservation Park, set up last year, was to have included a 200-hectare Crown-owned block in the upper Manukerikia Valley, but the area was kept out of the park, as requested by Christchurch-based coal company L and M Mining.
The area overlies the Hawkdun lignite coal deposit, one of 10 lignite deposits in Otago-Southland.
Brownlee was adamant there was no pressure from L&M:
“We had no representations from L and M Mining. I want to make that very, very clear. There was, however, a proposal to place … 70,000ha into the Oteake Conservation Park. We made the decision to keep 200ha out on the basis that it may have significant mineral deposits, mainly lignite.”
The document posted on The Standard however shows very clearly that Brownlee knew about L&M’s interest in the area. The company already had a prospecting permit, and we know from the official advice that Brownlee talked the issue over with then Conservation Minister Tim Groser.
Brownlee is lying. Here’s a copy of L&M’s submission to DoC on the park boundaries [PDF]. And here’s the notes by DoC staff of their verbal submission to the hearing [PDF]. As can be seen, they were very keen on getting the park boundaries shifted so it wouldn’t interfere with their future plans for mining and a coal-to-liquids plant. Crown Minerals also made a submission, which lobbied on their behalf. DoC briefings on the topic (29 August 2008 [PDF], 3 December 2008 [PDF]) were very clear that the pressure to shift the boundaries came from L&M (they were also very clear on the conservation value of the area in question). L&M very definitely did make representations – but these were unsuccessful until National came to power.
Following National’s rise to power, Brownlee immediately listened to L&M’s lobbying and excluded land it wanted to mine from protection. L&M is now set to mine that land. Brownlee has some very serious questions to answer, and his credibility is on the line.