The Herald had an excellent editorial on the governments recent claims of hysteria in the media today, “Double-talk betrays where the real mining ‘hysteria’ lies“. Unusually I find myself in full agreement with the anonymous editor.
The Prime Minister, John Key, labelled as “hysterical” the news coverage at the beginning of this week that quoted Forest and Bird revealing Government intentions for mining sensitive Crown land.
He and his Government claimed there were no such intentions; there could not be, they argued, because a review of relevant land was still going on.
Within days, though, the hysteria was on the other foot. With no eye for irony, the Government ordered a State Services Commission investigation into how the information politicians had been so keen to discredit had been “leaked” to the green movement in the first place.
Like the Herald, my bullshit detector flicked on at this rather strange about-face by John Key. First he was saying that there was no such paper on ripping national parks apart in search of low density ore. Then a few days later he, or rather Tony Ryall, initiate a inquiry to find out who leaked these papers. Furthermore John Key attempted to say that the head of the State Services Commission, Rennie, had initiated it to be directly contradicted by the man himself.
The editorial closes with the following statement.
Pretending something isn’t being considered when it is and then trying to shut down debate betrays one known symptom of hysteria – selective amnesia.
As Annette King pointed out earlier in the week
The only time you get whistleblowers in the public service is when they believe there’s so much secrecy that the true story is not being told to the public…
This is clearly the case for mining in the conservation lands which has been rumbling on since the middle of last year with Brownlee dropping hints and largely fallacious sound-bites. Both John Key and Gerry Brownlee appear to have some quite strange ideas about the processes of economic mining. They sound like they have been listening to too many weasel mouthed mining lobby PR people.
John Key has gone on record that if mining happened in the conservation lands, then it would be ‘surgical’. Quite simply that is likely to be utter bullshit for almost any ore bodies found here. It takes high concentrations of ore bodies to make ‘surgical’ mining economic, and those types of ore bodies are rare for anything outside of coal in NZ. Quite simply, the geological history of New Zealand has been so fractured that almost any ore body or even alluvial concentrations will be as well. To be economic mines are likely to have to be open-cast, removing any over-burden, and using sifting methods to extract the low concentrations of minerals.
John Armstrong points this out in his article today in the Herald – “Brace yourself PM, it’ll be a fight”
This is public relations flim-flam. The extraction of minerals and the protection of areas of high conservation value are mutually exclusive concepts. You can do one or the other. Not both.
Key would obviously disagree. But he needs only to chat to his front-bench colleague Nick Smith who noted the basic incompatibility as Minister of Conservation in 1997 when schedule four was inserted in the Crown Minerals Act.
The amending legislation, he said at the time, at long last put some “pegs in the sand” which meant New Zealand’s national parks were now no-go areas for mining companies. Nothing has changed since to give Key or Brownlee any reason beyond a newfound economic rationale to remove those pegs.
Left unanswered was the question of how mining was supposedly going to be unobtrusive in these areas given minerals are in such low concentration that underground mining would be uneconomic.
Was National going to give open-cast mining open slather in the Coromandel?
The point is that lifting the schedule four and other restrictions leaves those conservation areas with little or no protection against opencast, obtrusive, and highly damaging mining or even exploration. This is especially the case as I don’t think that the National Parks are even covered by other legislation like the Resource Management Act.
This government has a habit of firing through poorly conceived legislation in the house under urgency, without significant public consultation and without expert opinion that they aren’t paying for, all done within a short time-frame that allows inadequate time for debate. Furthermore, it is a government that restricts the documentation required to make clear decisions as being secret, until after the legislation is passed. You only have to look at such fiascoes as NACT’s Auckland super shitty legislation (that ignored all of the substantive recommendations by the Royal Commission), National Standards, ACE cuts, and so forth.
It is likely that this government would wind up removing protections and not put anything substantive in its place. The ‘hysteria’ that John Key is railing against is a direct consequence of these undemocratic habits by his government. People have learned that with this government, it is pointless waiting for the documents that would allowed considered opinions to be made. Brownlee would just stuff through inadequate legislation and ensure that there was insufficient time to correct the flaws. The best time to start the debate is when there is any hint that the government is considering something.
If the debate is poor, it is a direct result of the secretive and paranoid traits that John Key and his government bring to the table, and the level of spin with a distinct lack of real information that they provide.