Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright has released her Mining the Conservation Estate report. Among other important points, it hits on an issue that was raised by writers on The Standard during the Schedule 4 fight. Why is it that miners get to mine on conservation estate without paying any lease for the use of land? No private land owner would give away their land like that, why should we as taxpayers?
No wonder the mining lobby is so keen to get their dirty mitts on our conservation estate – it’s not the minerals it holds (most of our minerals are under private land) so much as the ability to mine rent-free and pocket the profits.
Naturally, the miners are insisting that nothing needs to be changed.
Remember, the fight over mining on the conservation estate isn’t over. Having being forced, kicking and screaming, to back down on opening up Schedule 4 land, the Government is looking at the rest of the conservation estate instead.
My position has always been that outside Schedule 4 mining may have a place on areas of low conservation value providing the miner pays a bond for restoring or improving the land once the mining is done as well as paying for using our land. And providing that digging up these one-off endowments now makes more sense than holding on to them for the future. And, of course, it has to be shown that the national benefit outweighs any loss to other users of the land and New Zealand’s international image.
These ought to be bare minimum requirements. Our natural heritage should not become a lolly scramble for miners.