Mining backdown – Nats split?

Written By: - Date published: 2:28 pm, July 20th, 2010 - 47 comments
Categories: activism, Conservation, john key, Mining, national - Tags: ,

Well done Kiwis! A rousing show of solidarity and strength has forced the Nats to back down from their plans to mine Schedule 4 land. We have preserved some of the most precious places in our country for future generations (or at least until the next time we get a neanderthal Nat government trying it on again). At time of writing Newsroom reports:

Mining Backdown Confirmed – Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee put on a brave face today as he confirmed that Government plans to allow mining on parts of highly protected Conservation land are dead.

Vernon Small reports that the decision is causing splits among the Nats:

Cabinet divides over mining U-turn

An embarrassing backdown over mining has exposed deep divisions in the Cabinet over the pace of economic reform.

In a major U-turn forced by Prime Minister John Key, the Government has abandoned plans to open up to 7000 hectares of protected conservation land to mining, despite touting it as a key plank of its promised “economic step-change”. Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee who was a strong advocate of the policy will front the announcement today, after National MPs are briefed at their weekly caucus meeting.

It will include a promise not to allow mining on land in the Coromandel, Great Barrier Island and Paparoa National Park, on the West Coast, earmarked as containing mineral resources after a stocktake that identified $140 billion of mineral resources, 70 per cent of which was on the conservation estate. It is understood Mr Key, backed by the Cabinet’s moderate faction normally including Transport Minister Steven Joyce and Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully over-rode those wanting to press ahead with moves they saw as an important feature of the party’s economic message.

Now the decision is made, ministers are bound by collective responsibility and are expected to close ranks and publicly support the decision, which is expected to include guarantees of protection for national parks.

I expect that collective responsibility will hold, but I can well believe the reported splits. The Nats don’t have any ideas of their own for lifting this country, and they refuse to listen to other people’s. Digging stuff up was the best they could manage, and now that door has been partly closed to them.

On occasion I’ve been known to congratulate the Nats if they seem to have acted sensibly or out of principle. I have no such congratulations for them this time. This is a straight craven backdown driven by Key’s relentless need to remain Mr Popular. But whatever the reason its the right result, and for that I am deeply happy.

47 comments on “Mining backdown – Nats split?”

  1. Ari 1

    Wonder if we’ll see the KBR attacking them as flip-floppers or not? Probably not, although chance would be a fine thing.

    This was the right decision reached the wrong way. If they were sincere about the practical argument or even public opinion, they would have backed down way before this. All indications were for a steamroll of this law, but it looks like the PM decided to bolster his public image by pulling the U-turn.

    What I really hope is that this does the appropriate amount of damage to the government for even considering such a ridiculous policy.

    • Jenny 1.1


      This was the right decision reached the wrong way. If they were sincere about the practical argument or even public opinion, they would have backed down way before this. All indications were for a steamroll of this law

      Absolutely Ari, it was the protests that forced the waverers over the edge. To all those too young to have lived it, this reminds me so much of the massive protests against nuclear war ships, the massive pressure of which split the National Party Caucus of Robert Muldoon.

      In the end the protests and strikes against Nuclear ship visits were so powerful that Wellington was brought virtually to a halt when one was in port. (This after they had been driven out of Auckland by similar protests.)

      The story goes, that the strikes against nuclear ship visits were was so universally supported that the American ambassador in Wellington could not even get someone to make him a cup of tea.

  2. A good decision. But it leaves Key’s plans for economic change in tatters. All that we have left is a cycleway …

  3. tsmithfield 3

    Actually, National have added to the S4 protected land. making them greener than Labour.

  4. Olwyn 4

    I can’t help but see it as all about spin and timing, although I am glad about the decision (while it holds). I see it as a variation on the “speculate about draconian move- make less draconian move, everyone sighs with relief” scenario, only this time it’s “take away workers’ rights-give back National Parks, everyone forgets workers’ rights” move. There are two very nasty aspects to this: (1) It appeals to a potential split in working/class liberal concerns, and (2) If an election were held tomorrow, the non-mining of national parks would be trumpeted from the rooftops, while a win would mean a “mandate” to further crush the workers. This government never seems to spend a minute out of campaign mode.

    • One wonders if the Labour Market reforms were floated over the past few days to try and take the attention off this decision.

    • Pete 4.2

      I’m with you Olwyn, I can only see this being – “look over there, that nice Mr Key has listened to the people. Isn’t he a great leader? Keep looking over there…”

      But then I’m pretty cynical.

    • BLiP 4.3

      Awwwww – look! Cute, lovable Pandas.

      • pollywog 4.3.1

        HAH…it was worth it just to watch Brownlee eat shit on TV and pretend it tastes good.

        But still I cringe everytime i see Key give that wounded schoolboy look to the hacks in parliament. You know the one, moments before he’s forced to run away and hide his arse the public just handed back to him in shreds.

        Dude needs to man up and front up. It’s one thing to act like a leader but it’s another to act badly.

        Goff, on the other hand, still needs to sound like he’s not just regurgitating soundbites when he’s kicking Key’s arse around in the media.

    • MrSmith 4.4

      Well put Olwyn, the Nat’s have been doing this from the beginning, throw it out there with a $ amount attached, then if there is a uproar cut that in half and tell people look 50% off what a bargain. They never had any new ideas from the beginning and now after all the flops, Job summit, 9 day work week, Cycle way , now mining. Where to from here, maybe john driving down the street throwing money from the limo .

  5. nilats 5

    Meanwhile the left will expect further entitlements for bludgers (like a lot of the marchers) and we have to now find new ways of finding the dough. We cannot borrow forever.
    Mining wages are higher than normal but deciples at this site are against higher wages it seems. Seems The Standard writers want to see wages drop.

    We should mine more and get the country exporting more. There is money to be made, despite what Farty G keeps saying. Income tax, GST, local business opportunities, some royalties, corporate tax etc. We cannot just rely on Milk.

    Fuck green issues, that is not the utopia and it should only be a consideration, not the final say.

    But the pity is Key seems to listen to moaning greenies more than his core base (ETS & S59).

    • r0b 5.1

      Key only governs with the consent of a big chunk of those moaning greenies. He can’t piss them off. He can piss you off all he likes because you won’t do anything about it.

    • Roger 5.2

      “Meanwhile the left will expect further entitlements for bludgers (like a lot of the marchers)”

      Can you cite a reference that suggests that the marchers were bludgers?

      “Mining wages are higher than normal but deciples at this site are against higher wages it seems.”

      And people can earn those higher wages on the 87% of New Zealand that is not on Scedule 4 Conservation land.

      “Fuck green issues”

      Yeah that’s right, fuck our tourism industry!!! Hahahaha

      Money shouldn’t be the final say either, just a consideration. Considering the low level of royalties, and the fact that overseas companies were going to do the mining, and the posibility that the government was going to subsidize the surveying suggests that too much money would have been siphoned off overseas during this once only smash and grab of our resources.

    • Ari 5.3

      If you don’t want to talk about green issues, there are quite a few other posts here where you don’t have to.

      What you just did is the equivalent of busting into a bar and demanding everyone stop talking about drinks.

    • Carol 5.4

      I can’t speak for all the marchers, but I was one of the marchers, living off my own earned income. It looked to me that a large number of the marchers were working people. Please don’t call us bludgers with no evidence.

    • exbrethren 5.5

      I can’t speak for anywhere else but here in Nelson a lot of the marchers were wage earners and I personally know two millionaires that marched.

      Mining will never earn the country that much money – its mainly diverted off o/seas – tourism puts vastly more into the pockets of kiwis.

  6. nilats 6

    I agree with you RoB. Sucks though as greenies are into wealth descruction, not creation.

    • r0b 6.1

      The greens are the only ones with serious, long term, sustainable plans for the economy.

      • mcflock 6.1.1

        which they haven’t costed or explained how they’ll pay for.

        Whereas the Alliance actually did estimate the cost of policies like removing GST from everything, and stumped up and explained how they’d get the money from a financial transaction tax and ISTR capital gains taxation (the majority of NZers would receive a tax cut, btw).

        Yet the major parties release vague credit cards and apple-pie crap, no specifics anywhere (Policy, Cost, Funding Source). Yup, you get the govt you vote for…

    • Ari 6.2

      Wealth destruction would be the devaluation of savings and investment, not the closing off of disastrous industries that make short-term profits pillaging our natural resources and destroying our environment. That would be a mineral resources and environmental policy, and only a financial illiterate would think it has even the slightest thing to do with pre-existing wealth.

      Of course, you meant growth destruction, which “greenies” (if by which you mean members of the Green political movement, as opposed to the green movement that merely supports the environment on some level but doesn’t buy into all the same assumptions) are indeed explicitly for, as we feel that growth reliance is just another form of inflation, and that a stable, limited-growth economy is needed in the medium term to address the very real problems facing us as a global society.

  7. Carol 7

    I see the Nat spin is that it isn’t a back down, they’ve listened to the people. But, the Auckland demo was the biggest one in decades, bigger than any march during the Clark government. What about the number of written submissions. My guess is that Key & Co were shitting themselves that the response was so large, it could lose them Auckland, if not the next national election.

    There may have been some manipulations in making a claim for more conservation land than they expected to get, and make mining elsewhere seem a lesser evil. However, without such big opposition, there wouldn’t have been as big a climb down.

    But, whether planned in advance or opportunism, I think there has been an attempt to distract from the employment laws by making the announcement about the mining backdown this week.

    • Olwyn 7.1

      Especially drawing it out over two days, with the “leaked’ version emerging the night before the official version.

  8. Key listened to the people alright and he heard their discontent rumbling like an appendix in his body corporate.

  9. Anne 9

    Geez, you lot are such a bunch of conspiracy loons.
    Didn’t ya hears Brownlee on Campbell Live tonight?

    “Talk about a load of old cobblers… us mining on conservation land was just a discussion plan to get you lot talkin. How else were we gonna get some real feed back from yous – aye? Course we didn’t mean we were gonna mine for lucre on our precious heritage land. What do ya take us for… a bunch of greedy marketeers?”

    Well, at least Brownlee had the b—s to front up, which is more than what would have happened if it had been Key, English, McCully et al in the firing line.

    • Carol 9.1

      It was a very tetchy interview though, with both guys spending a lot if it criticising the other for interrupting.

      And Brownlee now claims that this discussion (that he deliberately generated), has provided a mandate to mine non-schedule 4 land? Did I miss a step somewhere?

      • Anne 9.1.1

        @ Carol. Agreed it was a tetchy interview but that made it more interesting. Have just watched it again online and it seems to me that Brownlee was doing a political version of a backwards somersault. The ‘interruptions’ was more to do with Campbell trying to get him to answer the questions put to him.

  10. vto 10

    So now we will never know what lay in them thar hills …

    • jimmy 10.1

      I do, a whole lot of endangered species and trees older than the human habitation of our country.

  11. Jenny 11

    People power forces Govt u-turn on mining – National – NZ Herald News

    The Herald gets it right for once. This victory carries on the proud tradition of victory achieved by ‘people power’ in this country.

    The anti-Vietnam war protests

    The size and power of the Anti-Vietnam war protests, were reputedly the biggest anti-war protests per capita in the world.

    The power of the anti-war movement in New Zealand, unlike Australia, made the imposition of conscription, politically untenable in New Zealand despite massive pressure from our American allies. As a result the pro-war Holyoak government of New Zealand could only muster a token force of volunteers to support this war.

    The Maori protest struggle

    From the Maori Land March, to Bastion Point protests.

    These two singular campaigns, (plus similar smaller protest campaigns) gained many victories for Maori, often against opposition from unsympathetic governments. Forcing the granting of real statutory powers to the Maori Land Court, (which previously only had advisory powers). Setting in place some redress of this country’s racist colonial and imperialist past.

    The anti-racist protests

    The campaign to halt all racist sporting tours from South Africa was credited by the ANC leader Nelson Mandela as assisting the campaign to bring down the racist apartheid regime, in giving powerful moral encouragement their struggle. As the first black president of South Africa, Mandela made special mention of those New Zealanders who had taken part in these protests on his state visit to this country.

    The anti-nuclear protests

    An anti-nuclear movement so powerful it swayed two National government MPs to cross the floor of parliament on this issue, bringing the downfall of the Muldoon government, and ushering the era of Nuclear Weapons free New Zealand. A source of pride and sense of identity for all New Zealanders

    Congratulations to all New Zealanders and their political organisations that took part in this campaign to protect our natural heritage from the greedy mercantilists championed by the National government. As the saying goes “They know the price of everything, but the value of nothing”.

    To all you tens of thousands of flax roots kiwis who supported this protest you are carrying on a proud and distinctly successful New Zealand democratic tradition.

    Long may it continue.

  12. Zaphod Beeblebrox 12

    Despite protests that Key is not Rudd, you can’t help but be struck by the similarities. Once Rudd showed he had no principles, each new compromise was meant with derision and ridicule. By the time the polls started turning against him, he had few achievements to bolster his cred and the rest is history.

    Whether he can hold his nerve with the IR changes is the next big test. Given that 400K people change job each year and no one likes your boss hassling you for a health certiicate when you can’t make it to work, the heat is really going to be on.

  13. It is difficult not to see the Key Government hanging on to its striking lead in the polls primarily because of Mr Key. The rest of the team are performing, on avererage, at best averagely (and some are truly appalling), and, whilst Labour is not in scintillating form, it’s not doing too much wrong in terms of running a political script. Body blows to Mr Key’s public persona and image of freshness, pragmatism and competence (such as the mining debacle, shifted on to Mr Brownlee) must, one assumes, take a toll. I imagine that there is a trigger point (or points) somewhere, at which the commentary in the media and in pubs, clubs and bars makes that shift into critical mode. It strikes me that a sophisticated campaign around the proposed employment law changes might identify one such point.

  14. Carol 14

    Key being questioned on his lies about his role in the mining schedule 4 proposal & hence the backdown. Key says he encouraged Brownlee to go out and get opinions on it. Goff quotes previous Key comments that contradict that.

    Key providing slippery answers.
    And Goff adding claims to be going for step change & Aussie catch-up.
    Key gives list of things he’s done/doing to achieve this, reform of of Ecan, reform of Employment law etc..
    Goff needs more killer lines.

    And so it goes on.

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